“It's very satisfying when you work really hard on something and you feel like you're not getting anywhere and then you have these fun breakthroughs.”
While driving back home from Yosemite National Park in April of 2013, Tim Dec, then 52, had an “epiphany moment” while listening to a podcast featuring former Republican Representative Bob Inglis’s story about transitioning from a climate skeptic to a climate advocate.
Like other Republicans, Inglis had denied human-caused climate change when he represented South Carolina’s conservative 4th District from 1992 to 1998. But, his mindset radically shifted in the following years. Before he ran for re-election in 2004, his son (who had just turned 18) said that Inglis would only receive his vote if he “cleaned up his act on the environment.” Furthermore, Inglis saw firsthand evidence of climate change’s progression when he visited Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef as part of the House Committee on Science and Technology.
Although Inglis knew that he would face backlash from his constituents, he publicly acknowledged that climate change was real at a 2010 campaign event for his House reelection. That decision came at a cost — Inglis didn’t even make it out of primaries.
He went on to found RepublicEn, a grassroots nonprofit working to raise climate change awareness among conservatives. Now, he travels around the U.S., voicing his support for free enterprise climate solutions such as carbon taxes.
“His passion and his story about risking his career for a love of his son to work on climate really struck me,” Tim said. “It made it so clear to me that [working on climate issues] was a perfect fit for me.”
In 2012, Tim had quit his job as a Senior Hardware Engineer to pursue a less demanding career that would leave time for giving back to society. The former congressman’s story inspired him to focus on climate advocacy.
“If we start going off on runaway global warming, we won’t know how to fix it and
that's gonna be a huge burden on future people,” Tim said. “That’s why I feel this is the most important thing to work on.”
After attending a climate action picnic hosted by Organizing for Action that June, he joined Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), an international bipartisan environmental group that advocates for climate policy. Specifically, CCL focuses on generating support for The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act — a carbon fee and dividend policy that was introduced to the House in 2019. Every year, CCL'ers meet with Congress members and their staff in Washington D.C.
Currently, he is the co-lead of the Silicon Valley North Chapter of CCL. Besides organizing the chapter’s agenda, he trains advocates, does presentations and serves on the organization’s conservative caucus.
After 6 months of working for CCL’s Silicon Valley North chapter in the predominantly liberal Bay Area, he decided to shift gears and focus on galvanizing support for climate action in Idaho, where his parents and sister live. He became Idaho’s CCL state coordinator and made it his goal to create chapters throughout the state, work with other chapters to devise a coordinated state strategy and encourage Idaho members to lobby on Capitol Hill.
Specifically, Tim decided to focus on getting a face-to-face meeting with the representative of Idaho’s second congressional district, Mike Simpson, who has supported wilderness area designation and conservation.
“I kept on going back [to Idaho] and working to get more and more people from Idaho out to CCL’s November and and June conferences [in D.C.] to build that constituency that would give us the presence that the member would meet with us,” Tim said. “I remember telling somebody that when our bill eventually passes through the House and through the Senate, it may be because of one vote in Idaho.”
Finally, after two years of reaching out to Simpson’s staff members, Simpson agreed to meet with Tim and other Idaho CCL members. However, since the representative was unavailable on CCL’s scheduled lobby day, Tim said he had to “bend the rules a little” by scheduling the meeting for the following morning at 9:00 a.m — right before his flight back home.
“It matters when people come all the way across the country to meet with their member of Congress,” Tim said. “That has a lot of sway and that's why we always want to get as many constituents to DC as possible.”
On June 22, 2016, Tim, four Idaho CCL members and CCL’s Greater Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator Tamara Stanton walked into Washington D.C’s Capitol building. Leaving their suitcases in the main lobby, they entered Representative Simpson’s main office.
Going into the meeting, Tim expected Simpson to immediately reject CCL’s policy based on his staff’s negative reaction to it. But, Tim was pleasantly surprised, as Simpson was responsive and respectful, and saw positive aspects to the bill despite not declaring his support for it.
“I was excited by the fact that we were able to have this dialogue and he was not confrontational,” Tim said. “Our presence as an organization was made clear to him with us running the meeting as well as we did.”
A few years later in November 2019, he and Idaho CCL members met with Simpson again. At that meeting, Simpson seemed more responsive to CCL’s policy and seemed engaged while thoroughly considering its pros and cons.
“The success of that meeting and the productivity made is very optimistic in terms of where we're gonna be able to go with our work with Congress,” Tim said. “It's very satisfying when you work really hard on something and you feel like you're not getting anywhere and then you have these fun breakthroughs.”
The progress made with Simpson also helped Tim remain optimistic about his work on climate change.
In 2017, he had felt hopeless after reading reports warning that attempts by activists won’t limit warming to pre-catastrophic levels. For a few months, he even became depressed.
But the triumphs he accomplished — particularly spearheading the relationship with a Simpson, a senior Republican House Member — helped Tim realize that his work wasn’t fruitless.
“You're never going to feel like [your actions] are enough, but if you're doing what you can, that's that's making a difference,” Tim said. “Even if we can’t [limit warming to] 2 degrees Celsius, I can say I live with no regrets. I put my all into it. I went to D.C., I talked to Congress members, I worked as a conservative in another state. I did everything I could think of.”