JASPER – First, we zoom in on Jasper, Indiana, Sen. Mike Braun’s hometown. According to the county-level map on the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication website, 60% of Dubois County residents surveyed believe that global warming is happening and will harm future generations. And 83% think we should fund research into renewable energy.

Zoom out to the U.S, as a whole, where 67% believe warming is happening and poses a threat. And that’s not a partisan belief; according to polling group Luntz Global, 75% of Republicans under 40 believe that climate change must be addressed by the government and can be done in conservative ways.

Americans do get it, even if Washington hasn’t. Until now. Last week, our own Sen. Braun stepped into a national leadership position on the climate crisis. As announced in an Oct. 23 op-ed in “The Hill,” Braun has paired with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) to found the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.

Braun and Coons describe the caucus as a “bipartisan group of senators who, like the Americans we serve, believe Congress should play a central role in guiding America’s 21st Century energy economy and addressing the challenge of a changing climate.”

It’s so refreshing to read that it bears repeating: “Congress should play a central role in guiding America’s 21st Century energy economy and addressing the challenge of a changing climate.” And this, from the op-ed: “Every day, another American company announces a pledge to achieve carbon neutrality. Congress can build on these efforts, giving American businesses the tools they need to get there.”

These are the words so many have been waiting to hear, and not just environmentalists. The auto industry – farmers, insurers, municipalities, tech sector innovators and others – are just waiting for the government to catch up to reality and facilitate a smart, strategic transition to a post-carbon economy. We now have Sen. Braun and his colleague to thank for this clear-minded, unabashedly practical path forward.

Green groups such as the Citizens Climate Lobby Indiana Chapter, which advocates for a bipartisan carbon fee and dividend policy as the quickest, fairest pathway to a post-carbon nation, hailed the caucus as a major milestone. “With this bold step, Sen. Braun is leading not only Indiana, but the nation and the Republican Party. He is following in the footsteps of a party that founded the National Parks System, the EPA, and led the world in signing the Montreal Protocol. He is reminding us that conservatives have a proud heritage of conserving this planet, and one that can be reclaimed in time to make a major impact for Hoosiers and all Americans,” said Topher Anderson of Citizens’ Climate Lobby Indiana.

The more you consider it, the more sense Braun makes as a GOP leader on climate. He hails from an agricultural community and serves on the Senate Ag Committee. This season, a drenched spring and drought-like fall gave Indiana farmers abysmal yields. Extremes are now the norm. Farmers are going to need new kinds of help from government to stay solvent.

Braun personally owns thousands of acres of forest in southern Indiana, and has been supportive of limits to logging on state forests, a policy promoted by the Indiana Forest Alliance. Maybe Braun’s noticed that certain tree species are not growing like they used to. Or that forests need to be managed in new ways to maximize their ability to absorb carbon.

And it appears that the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus is getting a fairly warm welcome from Braun’s fellow Republicans. Energy and Natural Resources chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is poised to join. “I think we’ve got a lot to contribute to the conversation just in terms of what’s going on with technologies that are going to help make a difference,” Murkowski told the Washington Examiner.

The Braun-Coons dual-party Climate Solutions Caucus is patterned on a similar one in the House, which now has 64 members. Clearly, for any climate solution to be enacted quickly and upheld indefinitely, it has to have buy-in from both sides of the aisle.

I praise this action of Sen. Braun as a major milestone and look forward to seeing what this legislative body can do. Thanks to Braun, Senate Republicans now have a politically “safe place” to talk climate and continue a legacy of conservation.

Laker is a freelance copywriter, former communications director at the Indiana Forest Alliance, and a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also hosts a movie review show, “Flick Fix,” on WQRT 99.1.