Questions For Our Next President About the Environment

Glowing Earth floating in space
Glowing Earth floating in space

How would our next president deal with major environmental challenges? To that end, there are a number of key questions that need to be posed to the candidates of both parties on the campaign trail.

Who is going to ask these politically sensitive questions? Hopefully the media will step forward, although they have yet to display much inclination to do so in any significant way. Perhaps some plucky member of the audience in a town hall meeting will compel the candidates to go on the record in public.

What questions are we talking about? Let's start with climate change.

  • Fifteen of the last 16 years have been the warmest on record, giving credence to climate change concerns. If elected, what actions if any would your administration take to counter this trend?
  • How would you follow up on President Obama's Paris climate Summit commitment and his carbon reduction arrangement with China?
  • What if any initiative would your administration take to mitigate the rising sea levels that are already plaguing coastal communities, especially along the Atlantic seaboard?
  • Is there anything you would do to speed the transition from the nation's fossil fuel dependency to a clean, renewable energy-based economy?
  • Would you consider a revenue neutral tax on carbon emissions, considering that the idea has been endorsed by prominent economists at both ends of the ideological spectrum?
  • Given fracking's suspected link to ground water contamination and earthquakes, should a government investigation of the oil shale extraction process continue?
Climate change is not the only topic that needs clarification in the presidential race.
  • What actions would you take to curb environmental discrimination against low income Americans? (Reference could be made to the scandalous lead contamination of the water supply of Flint, Michigan, an economically depressed, minority-dominated community.)
  • Should the Endangered Species Act be strengthened, weakened, or left as is? (Foes of the law complain that environmentalists are using it to block commercial development.)
  • What changes if any would you make in the operations of the Environmental Protection Agency?
  • What is your position on ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty that governs nations' activities in international waters? (Ratification has been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, but approval has been stymied by a bloc of Republican senators over the years.)
Some questions about public lands are in order.
  • Should the protesters illegally occupying a national wildlife refuge in Oregon be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? What is your take on their demands that the Constitution requires national wildlife refuges and other federal lands to be turned over to local control?
  • Would you consider adding to the national park system and other public conservation-oriented lands?

At the very least, eliciting answers from the candidates on these issues should reduce the chances of unpleasant post-election surprises. Americans are entitled to know where their president truly stands before receiving their votes much less taking the oath of office.

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