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Thune Discusses Climate Change and Other Questions with Sioux Falls High Schoolers

Jackie Hendry

U.S. Senator John Thune made a classroom visit to New Tech High School in Sioux Falls. In January, students wrote letters to South Dakota’s congressional delegation, and Thune took them up on the invitation. He also answered a variety of student questions—most centering on climate change, and one on the potential of removing the party whip position in Congress. 

Senator Thune says he believes the climate is changing and that human activities are at least partially responsible. He acknowledges it’s important to reduce carbon emissions.

“But I think the best way to do that is to come up with strategies that actually do reduce the amount of carbon emissions but at the same time don’t have a crushing effect on the economy.”

He tells students that using incentives to develop new technologies is a better solution.

“I think these new technologies like carbon capture and sequestration—I think more use of nuclear energy, renewable energy, wind, biofuels, many of which we have in abundance here in South Dakota—are all a parts of that solution.”

Those answers seemed to appease students. Senior Cayden Lechner (LECK-ner) is happy to hear a right-leaning politician acknowledge climate change, but his question concerned partisan gridlock. Lechner wonders if the party whip position—which Thune holds in the Senate—should be removed to lessen pressure to vote on party lines. He understands Thune’s response that a whip’s role is to inform rather than intimidate.

“So it’s not just, ‘You’re voting Republican, right? You’re voting Democrat, right?’ It’s more informing them. But, I feel maybe sometimes it can be informing them about Republican views and Democratic views still to still help the party votes.”

Although young people are often accused of cynicism when it comes to politics, Senator Thune says he was impressed by the students’ thoughtful questions.

“Young people today have access to information, and they’re paying attention. Sometimes politicians get down on them for not participating as much when it comes to voting, but I think that’ll come.”

Thune also says the only way for students to enact change is to roll up their sleeves, get in the arena, and vote.

Regional Health supports Education and Healthcare reporting on SDPB.