Town Hall and Candidate Forum Sample Questions
Where the audience is politically mixed:
- In a mixed audience we shouldn’t assume everyone will be on board with climate action, so the goal of these questions is to 1) ease into the topic with a personal and local story and to 2) highlight the economic impacts on American families.
“[include your specific appreciation] Until recently, I didn’t think much about climate change, but I’ve started to notice changes over the years. [Insert one sentence with a local impact: “The ice fishing season is shorter and I almost never get my cross-country skis on.”] So I think we should take the threat of climate change seriously. How can we best manage the risks to our health and economy from a changing climate?”
“[Use your own brief story…] Last year my cousin almost lost her job because she couldn’t get to work after the roads washed out in her town following ten inches of rainfall. That’s supposed to be a thousand year event, but we’ve had several in the last few years. I think there’s something to this problem of climate change. I’m tired of seeing Congress arguing over it. I’d like to see both parties come together and do something. How will you bring members of both parties together to make sure that we aren’t making things worse for my kids and grandkids by ignoring climate change?”
Where the audience is liberal:
- In a liberal audience, it can be assumed that most attendees view climate policy as a top priority, so the goal of these questions is to 1) highlight the importance of bipartisan buy-in to advance lasting solutions and to 2) highlight our desired policy while drawing out the member’s position on climate policies.
“I would guess that most people here are concerned, like I am, about climate change. And we’re doing as much as we can locally and individually to lower our emissions, but we need federal action. I’ve personally concluded that the only way that can happen is by both parties working together, otherwise everything gets undone with a change in administration. What will you do to work with Republicans who are beginning to come around on this issue so that we can have some lasting solutions?”
“[include your specific appreciation] Climate change is the issue I am most concerned about, and it looks more urgent to me every day. I was pleased to see President Biden set a goal of 50% reductions of emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 and believe we must enact meaningful climate solutions to reach it. What climate policies will you prioritize in Congress to enable our country to reach the President’s goal of 50% emissions reduction by 2030?”
Where the audience is conservative:
- In a conservative audience it can be assumed that some attendees are skeptical of climate change science and policies, so the goal of these questions is to 1) focus on local environmental issues impacting the community and economy and to 2) highlight the importance of conservative, market-based environmental policy solutions.
“[Insert one sentence with a local impact on the economy, like “Flooding for the past three years has impacted tourism and many small businesses that rely on our coastline to survive like our fishermen and guides” or “The droughts our community has been facing have taken a devastating toll on our farmers and ranchers. Projections show the droughts are only going to worsen in coming years.” It’s clear that these impacts of climate change are harming our livelihoods and economy. What can you do on a national level to support market-based policies to address these changes and protect our jobs and businesses?”
“For too long I think the dialogue on climate change has focused on government regulations and policies that put the U.S. at an economic disadvantage. What will you do to put forward market-based solutions to address the impacts of climate change while holding nations like China accountable?”
“[your appreciation] The wildfire season has already started again out West, I see. Last year, my friends in Idaho were telling me about all the smoke and ash falling in their neighborhoods. I worry about their health and their homes, and I also wonder how much fighting these fires is costing us taxpayers. I think we need to take prudent action about climate change. What kinds of solutions are consistent with conservative values?”
Additional Sample Questions
- “At the University of (your state) we have some of the best scientists in the country. Their position matches that of 97% of climate scientists around the world who say global warming is tied directly to the burning of fossil fuels. What’s your preferred approach to solving climate change?” (conservative)
- “There are seven billion people on the planet today. Most people want our standard of living. We cannot begrudge them that. However, with seven billion people using fossil fuels, we won’t be able to keep our air clean and our water pure. We will have to make a larger place at the table for renewable energy. How do we do that in a timely way while respecting the fact that U.S. businesses need predictability for their pricing?” (mixed)
- “I’ve heard talk about a carbon fee or tax. On the one hand, it makes sense that if you want less of something, like pollution, you should tax it. On the other hand, I don’t want the size of government to grow. If we wind up with a carbon tax, would you please see to it that Congress returns that money to American households in the form of a monthly rebate?” (conservative)
- “How do you think we can best transition to a clean-energy economy?” (liberal or conservative)
- “The Pentagon reports that climate change is creating the conditions that destabilize governments around the world, leading to an increased risk of U.S. troops being sent abroad. Would you comment on this?” (conservative)
- “A majority of Americans, on both sides of the political spectrum, believe Congress should be taking steps to deal with the threat of a warming planet. What emissions-reducing plan do you support?” (mixed)
- “I heard a report that said a revenue-neutral fee on carbon pollution could create over two million jobs, and it was exciting to realize that we could do something about carbon pollution that is good for the economy. If this carbon fee really helps the economy and helps keep global warming in check, would you support it?” (mixed)
- “Thank you for being the kind of person who wants to be a public servant. An important issue facing us is our energy situation. We need to cut our carbon emissions so we don’t leave big problems for our kids and grandkids to handle. I don’t think regulations are going to be as effective or as quick as a market-based solution. What can you do in Congress to help the United States be a leader in the transition to clean energy? I look forward to your leadership in solving this problem.” (liberal)