20 Questions for Electoral Candidates

Here are twenty questions you might consider asking electoral candidates to test their awareness of the facts about climate change.

  1. Do you know what the global concentration of CO2 is this year?
    Concentration of CO2 has gone up from about 280 ppm before the industrial revolution to about 350 ppm in 1950 and has reached 409 ppm in August 2018.
  2. What do scientists say is the safe amount?
    The group 350.org is named because they claim that 350 ppm is the safe level. The 2015 Paris agreement sets a target of less than 2 degrees Celsius warming, with a stretch target of 1.5. It’s hard to be precise but it means that we must keep the concentration below about 450 ppm.
  3. What average global temperature increase, over the pre-industrial value, is considered to be “dangerous” by the Intergovernmental Pane on Climate Change?
    The IPCC states that a rise above 2C will be dangerous for humanity.
  4. What is the current average global temperature increase, over the pre-industrial value?
    We are already at 1C above pre-industrial temperatures.
  5. What is the pre-industrial age CO2 concentration.
    CO2 concentration before 1750, the start of the industrial revolution was about 280 ppm.
  6. What does pre-industrial mean?
    It refers to the time before the industrial revolution when humanity started burning coal and other fossil fuels as a source of energy. There is some debate about what exactly this means. The IPCC defines it in this reference as before and after 1750, but this report suggests that we use the average from 1850 to 1900, and another report says we should use 1720 to 1800. 
  7. What are the two largest sources of greenhouse gases for your region?
    In most cities the two largest sources are transportation and residential buildings, with around 30% each. Consult your area’s climate change action plan.
  8. What should we do to reduce the GHGs from these 2 sources?
     Build new houses to net-zero energy standards, and retrofit existing houses (especially those built prior to 2005) with better insulation and draft-proofing. For transportation, walk and cycle more (also healthier), use public transportation. If necessary, buy electric or fuel-cell vehicles.
  9. What is the difference between adaptation and mitigation?
    Adaption refers to getting ready for the climate change that is already coming from past greenhouse gas emissions, while mitigation refers to measures that will reduce the emissions that are the root cause of the problem.
  10. What actions do you recommend for mitigation measures?
    Start with addressing the worst greenhouse gas emitters as identified in your local Climate Change Action Plan: usually house heating and transportation.  Eating red meat also contributes about 15% to global emissions. Improving population density makes public transit more affordable.
  11. What actions do you recommend for adaptation measures?
    A city should start by addressing potential flooding issues, as floods often cause the most damage. More trees and greenspace help cool a city AND sequester CO2. Cities should add cooling centres for the extreme heat days.
  12. What type of carbon price do you recommend? Why?
    Many answers are possible, but mainly they boil down to  Cap & Trade or Fee and Dividend. Why? Because with a price on carbon emissions society will look for cheaper alternatives.
  13. What are some of the benefits, apart from stopping climate change, from acting rapidly to address climate change?
    Improved local economy, more local jobs, cleaner local environment, many fewer deaths from respiratory problems and heat effects. Better mental health from greenspaces.
  14. What do you think is meant by a government’s “duty of care”?
    Duty of Care refers to the obligation of responsible bodies such as governments to protect their citizens from harm. There are several active court cases in which citizens have sued their government for not protecting them from the effects of climate change.
  15. What does “heat island effect” mean?
    It is a local effect that causes cities to be hotter than their surroundings because of a relative lack of trees compared to less densely populated places and more pavement.
  16. What does “feedback loop” mean?
    With reference to climate change it refers to a phenomenon whereby a small change causes the change to become greater. An example is the melting of polar ice that replaces reflective white surface with a darker surface that absorbs heat causing even more warming.
  17. What do you see as roles for the municipal, provincial and federal governments with respect
    to Climate Change action plans?
    Municipal governments can help with home retrofitting, cycle paths, better transportation, more greenspace and trees and a higher population density. Provincial governments can set a price on carbon and either return the proceeds to the taxpayer or use them for incentives for home retrofits and electric vehicles, for example. The provinces can also regulate city population densities, fraction of greenspace, and better building codes. Federal governments can set a minimum price on carbon, set pollution standards, and determine a national goal for greenhouse gas reduction and enforce it.
  18. What do you think of the (revised) motto, “Where there is a way, there is a will”? (Ken
    Dryden). How would you apply this statement to national, provincial and municipal policies.
    If you define a way to make things better people will support it.
  19. How many Climate Action groups can you name, Internationally, Nationally, and in your area?
    Give points for any correct answer.
  20. What do you think is the most important issue of our time?
    People are entitled to their opinion, and many people have a passion for other very important issues, but there is a strong case that the other issues are either caused by climate change or will be made worse because of climate change.

Bonus questions:

  1. How much is climate change costing us (Canadians/North Americans/world) today?
    The number is pretty big, probably too big to understand, but the point is that there is already a cost to society in the form of recovering from increased forest fires, floods, and storms. For example, the 2017 Houston flood cost between $50 billion and $150 billion. This single event cost about 0.5% of total American GDP that year.
  2. How much is climate change predicted to cost in the future, without effective action to reduce emissions?
    It is even bigger the farther into the future we look.
  3. How important is methane as a GHG?
    Per molecule, methane traps much more heat than carbon dioxide but it is much less common and does not last as long in the atmosphere. Nevertheless it contributes from 5% to 10% to global warming.
  4. How much time does the world have to act before we have runaway climate change that will change the world’s climate drastically for 1000’s of years.
    Some sources say that in as few as 3 years the world may have reached the point of no return.


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