Kansas Senate candidates on the issues: Climate Change

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for office address ahead of November’s general election. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for seats in the Kansas Senate.

We have been publishing the candidates’ responses to one item per day each day this week. Today we’re publishing the candidates’ responses to our final item, question #5.

  • Climate change continues to be a major concern for Shawnee Mission Post readers. What steps should the federal government be taking now to address the impact of the changing climate in the coming decades? How would you work to see those steps enacted?

District 10 (Shawnee, Lake Quivira, parts of Overland Park and Merriam)

Mike Thompson (Incumbent Republican)

I have worked in the field of meteorology and the climate for over 40 years, but I have been quite frustrated and dismayed by the efforts of those who have intentionally misled the public on the subject of climate change. Unfortunately, after decades of misinformation about the climate, too many people think the environment and climate are the same thing. They are not.

Obviously, I believe we must be good stewards of the environment. We all drink the same water and breathe the same air and must continue to find ways to avoid pollution and keep our air and water clean. That comes with making good choices about sustainable energy sources that will answer the needs of the future without causing utility prices to soar. That is common sense.

The climate, however, is determined by long term solar cycles, ocean temperature patterns, tectonics, volcanic activity, and other items over which man has no control…and it’s scientifically impossible to stop those natural cycles from happening. Some of the biggest errors in state and national policy have come as a result of instituting legislation aimed at mitigating climate change…which we can do nothing about. The wildfires in California are a good example…they were caused by a lack of forest management due to concerns over clearing out trees…all to reduce CO2. Instead…the fires released massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere! I could cite many more examples.

A big part of the solution is to avoid instituting costly and useless legislation and focusing on the things we can control going forward.

Lindsey Constance (Democrat)

I co-founded Climate Action KC in order to address the urgent and real threat of climate change because like Shawnee Mission Post readers and the majority of Kansans, I am concerned about the impact of climate change on our state’s future.

In my role as President of Climate Action KC, I have brought together hundreds of elected, business, and community leaders to identify opportunities to make our metro region more resilient, through actions at all levels of government and organizations.

Last year, we released the Climate Action Playbook, which serves as a resource for our region to adopt commonsense, cost-saving solutions in our communities that draw down our emissions.

We also shared our legislative platform for 2020, which has state-specific projects and policies in clean energy, transportation, agriculture, taxation, and land use that are smart, pragmatic moves that can save the state money and make our communities leaders in emerging industries. This platform is a great starting place to promote climate solutions, and was developed collaboratively with government officials, businesses, industry leaders, and activists in order to identify solutions that work for all stakeholders.

In the Senate, I will continue to be a champion of policies and projects that improve our state’s resilience to climate change. Not only is it good for the long-term health of our state and communities, but it also makes economic sense. These solutions save taxpayer dollars and create good-paying jobs for Kansans today and tomorrow. The solutions to the climate crisis are an opportunity to invest in the future of our state, which will also help us get through our current economic crisis.

District 11 (I-435 Corridor)

Kellie Warren (Republican)

State government has a limited role to play when it comes to the issue of climate change because it’s a very broad issue. Certainly we all support being good stewards of the environment and natural resources, keeping our air and water clean, and doing what we can to limit pollution.

As a legislator I have experience serving on the Energy, Utilities and Telecommunication Committee and supporting policies that allowed, for example, placing of wind turbines, and remain open in the Senate to alternative forms of energy that can be self sustaining.

Joy Koesten (Democrat)

Global climate change is real and it’s up to us to do our part to ensure we leave the planet as good as we found it so that future generations can breathe clean air, eat healthy food, and drink clean water.

We know the science and we can mitigate climate change right here in Kansas. Kansas is positioned to be a leader in this arena. As Senator, I will advocate for policies that support clean, renewable energy sources like sun, wind, and water, as well as conservation programs so we don’t waste natural resources.

District 21 (Lenexa, parts of Overland Park and Shawnee)

Dinah Sykes (Incumbent Democrat)

Let’s start with the most basic point. The scientific consensus supports climate change impacted by humans. If we care about our children and our children’s children, we must address this challenge. Meeting this challenge is a moral obligation.

We are already seeing how the cost for renewable energy sources is declining and making a difference in our economy. Kansas already generates a large percentage of the country’s wind power. We can already see how our economy is transitioning to new energy sources. We have an opportunity to lead our country and our economic future depends on taking advantage of that opportunity.

At the same time, we must prepare for how the outcomes of climate change impact everyone in Kansas. While we cannot predict all the impacts, we know that changing climate will affect everyone from farmers to those living in cities.

Tom Bickimer (Republican)

As Senator, I will continue to support the growth of renewable energy sources in our state. 36% of Kansas electricity is wind generated, one of the largest percentages in the country. I will also advocate for joint state and local initiatives that encourage weatherization programs for our communities’ older housing stock which will dramatically reduce energy consumption while creating significant monetary savings for homeowners.

District 6 (Northeast Johnson County)

Pat Pettey (Incumbent Democrat)

I support wind energy and reducing greenhouse gases. I support cities and counties and employers  in voluntary action to combat climate change. Merriam just changed their policies to make it easier for a homeowner to do solar installation and they are also offering small sustainability grants.

In Topeka we need to make sure that legislative roadblocks are removed so that local governments can respond to community needs.

Diana Whittington (Republican)

Did not respond.

District 7 (Northeast Johnson County)

Ethan Corson (Democrat)

Climate change is both an urgent challenge and an opportunity for Kansas to lead the way in creating a cleaner, greener future for the next generation. But first, we need a plan. That’s why we need to have an independent energy office. Once established, that office should develop a comprehensive statewide energy plan.

Kansas has a competitive advantage in wind energy, and we need to capitalize on that advantage. In 2019, wind energy accounted for more than 41% of our electricity, a number that will only increase in coming years. For example, once completed, the Cimarron Bend wind energy farm will add enough wind power to serve 10,000-40,000 homes.

Earlier this month, a new project was announced. Named the Grain Belt Express, this project will send energy through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, and create nearly 1,000 full-time jobs. Our state government should work with experts to understand how to create the conditions where we have dozens of similar projects.

COVID-19 has highlighted the issue of supply chain security, and the need to increase domestic manufacturing. Kansas should be a leader in the advanced manufacturing revolution. For example, Kansas needs to make itself a critical part of the electric vehicle supply chain. This will result in a cleaner environment, good jobs, and help us keep and attract talented young people who want to work in green technology.

Laura McConwell (Republican)

Kansas is the #2 producer of Wind Energy. In fact, renewable energy generates nearly 50% of our energy. We need to continue to maintain (and expand) this alternative energy. The consequence of the build out of wind farms is that infrastructure is being developed in rural areas of our state….this means rural areas can benefit from better access to internet and more opportunities to expand business opportunities and connectivity.

The state can partner with local governments to improve our practices. Specific examples of my working with state, local and federal sources while mayor of Mission: 1) our Mission stormwater decisions prioritized cleaning the stormwater prior to it returning to the water table or creek; 2) converting city owned lights/lighting to LED for reduced light pollution and energy usage; 3) expansion of green space, and 4) reducing size of roads to return green space and offer.

District 8 (I-435 Corridor)

James Todd (Republican)

Climate change is real. The nature of the issue requires national and/or international action.  There is not much a state can do to impact the worlds climate when it acts alone. I do not recommend that Kansas should undergo any drastic actions on it’s own.

There are some things we can do. Kansas has become a national leader in wind energy production. This is to be celebrated and encouraged. I believe the state should offer education to farmers on no-till farming which can reduce soil erosion and carbon release from the soil.

Cindy Holscher (Democrat)

I have supported various bills that have been brought forward by my peers in regard to addressing climate change.

Our federal government needs to become more aggressive in addressing this topic, as our farmers are seeing the impact of climate change in regard to their harvests and the crops they plant. Important actions to take would consist of: setting local emission goals as well as eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel production and consumption.

Actions such as this would help our nation move to cleaner energy. Specific to Kansas, we are second in wind production, yet have not full harnessed this potential. Moving forward, we need to ensure we are utilizing this clean energy resource to its fullest capacity.