2022 Election

Illinois GOP Senate candidates’ opinions on climate change vary widely

Some said they can play a part in curbing climate change if elected, while other GOP candidates contend climate change is a hoax

Election 2024
Republican primary candidates for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat: top row, left to right, Casey Chlebek, Matt Dubiel, Peggy Hubbard and Robert Piton. Bottom row, left to right, Kathy Salvi, Jimmy Lee Tillman II and Anthony Williams.

While many Democrats have made combating climate change a centerpiece of their campaigns, the issue often remains a low priority for many Republican candidates.

That’s largely due to the significance GOP voters place on the topic, according to a report issued last year by the Pew Research Center.

Among the seven Illinois candidates vying to be the Republican U.S. Senate nominee and face incumbent Democrat Tammy Duckworth in November, opinions on climate change and the government’s role vary widely.

According to answers given in questionnaires issued by the Daily Herald, some think they can play a part in curbing climate change if elected, while other GOP candidates contend climate change is a hoax.

Kathy Salvi, an attorney from Mundelein, said she thinks science should lead the conversation, but is concerned about the U.S. becoming too reliant on “green new deal policies.”

“Our energy needs today cannot be 100% supported by alternative green energy policies alone,” she said. “We simply don’t have the energy grid to support that – not even close. The only way to move toward policies that address the good of our environment is to make sure America is energy independent first. We need to produce more oil and natural gas domestically.”

Jimmy Lee Tillman, a Chicago author and publisher, argued that business interest would determine the future of alternative energy sources.

“Congress should pursue practical policies to drive innovation and advances in environmental protection,” he said. “The most significant improvements in clean energy use and energy efficiency have not come about because of government command and control. Instead, these advances have unfolded due to deregulation, open markets and greater degrees of dynamic trade.”

Candidate Matt Dubiel, a Naperville radio executive, said the country’s current energy policies only benefit those policymakers’ “crony-capitalist friends.”

“Human beings who accept boondoggle solutions to ‘climate change’ like the expensive wind mills across Illinois that will never generate more than they cost are damaging our planet while killing birds,” he said. “If America follows the green woke mob, it will empower India, China and other foreign nations who will pick up the slack and just pay the fines or fees for not being ‘green’ enough.”

According to the Sierra Club, wind turbines are responsible for an estimated 1 million bird deaths a year, but that’s still far below deaths from collisions with communications towers, power lines, windows, cats and the loss of habitat from pollution and climate change, which kills billions of birds.

“It’s pretty hard to take climate change seriously, when the climate czar John Kerry tells us we need to take climate change seriously, while he flies throughout the world in a private Learjet,” said Peggy Hubbard, a retired law enforcement officer from Belleville.

She criticized the country’s participation in the Paris Climate Accords that were adopted in 2015. Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal during his presidency, but President Joe Biden sought readmittance on his first day in office in 2021, which was granted.

Geneva investment manager Bobby Piton claimed oil companies were responsible for creating a “climate change hoax” to prevent access to something he referred to as “free energy,” but did not elaborate on what that was.

While not calling it a “hoax,” candidate Casey Chlebek, a retired IT professional from Lake Forest, doesn’t think humans are responsible for climate change.

“Our planet has gone through many climate changes and some even in our recorded history, and man’s activities had absolutely nothing to do with it,” he said. “This climate changing process is more determined by our sun’s activity than humans.”

As for candidate Anthony Williams, a pastor from Dolton, he said his campaign is more focused on ending gun violence and a return to civility.

“Yes, I acknowledge humans’ role in climate change and our government must continue to be proactive on this issue,” he said.

The June 28 primary will decide who faces Duckworth in November.

Duckworth has championed several initiatives while in office to reduce the country’s carbon emissions and cut greenhouse gases, most recently endorsing a plan last week to transition the Department of Defense from reliance on fossil fuels.

“We know that climate change is real and it’s threatening our military readiness, the safety of our men and women in uniform and our national security,” she said. “While the military has started working to address this, we need to provide them with the resources to further act to curb the impacts of climate change before it’s too late, like pivoting further away from fossil fuels and investing instead in clean energy.”