US conservatives holding a big convention are divided on climate issues as basic as whether carbon dioxide is good for the planet and if global warming should be a priority for humanity in this day and age.
At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held through Saturday in suburban Washington, exhibit stands offer blue pamphlets calling on people to refute the idea that climate change is caused by humans.
"We know that climate is changing, but at this catastrophic level, we kind of debate that in our organization," said Gabriella Hoffman, a spokeswoman for CFACT, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.
At a stand located between a replica of the Oval Office and a display of cookies in the red, white and blue of the US flag, Hoffman's association is calling for overhauling what it calls the myth around climate change.
Of alarming predictions that life on Earth will change drastically for the worse if global warming is not curbed, she said: "Our organization disagrees with that statement because you hear those statements on and on again, and then they turn out to not be so catastrophic."
- 'I love CO2' -
The latest alarming report from the UN panel on climate change, countries seeing record high temperatures year in and year out, and other data on global warming are largely exaggerated, said Payne Kilbourn, who stands nearby at a stand covered in pins that say "I love CO2."
Kilbourn, a nuclear engineer with a group called the CO2 Coalition that was taking part in the convention for the third time, argues that carbon dioxide -- released by the burning of fossil fuels, or the decay of organisms, for instance -- is good for the planet.
"More CO2 is good for the planet. It helps plants grow," said Kilbourn, standing by a table offering koozies -- cushion-like holders for keeping beverages cold -- that read "Chill out. Polar bears are not going anywhere."
His coalition has been known to make false statements but Kilbourn is nonetheless defiant. "We're the only scientific booth here. Everybody else is politics and policy and we like to stress the science," Kilbourn said.
Winning back young people
"It's clear we have sort of our opposing viewpoint on the other side down there," said Morgan Chrisman, a 24-year-old Republican who says she has no doubts about the dangers of climate change. She is at a stand representing the idea that fighting climate change should be a priority.
That is a minority opinion at CPAC, which features panel discussions that praise oil as the world's main energy source.
"The environmental cause has been very much driven by the left for pretty much the entire time and that has sort of alienated a lot of young people and made them think that, you know, the GOP doesn't have solutions for that," Chrisman said of the Republican Party.
She represents a group that calls itself Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends.
In the last two US congressional elections, young voters did in fact opt largely for progressive candidates, making a priority of the battle against global warming.
Chrisman's group says it believes "capitalism is the solution to climate change."
"We think that there are capitalism-first, market-based solutions that are far more effective than the solutions being put forth by the left, but do not compromise on conservative values," she said, alluding to the idea of holding China accountable for its big role in climate change.
"Every person under 40 that comes here is excited with what we're doing," she said.
© Agence France-Presse