James Hansen, Steven Pinker, Nobel & Pulitzer Prize Winners Urge Inclusion of Michael Shellenberger in California Gubernatorial Debates

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by Michael Shellenberger

A distinguished group of scientists and scholars have today sent an open letter (below) urging that I be included in California’s upcoming gubernatorial debates.

Signers of the letter include the climate scientist James Hansen, Harvard author Steven Pinker, winners of the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, and other concerned citizens.

In their letter (below) they point out that a recent poll finds that I have higher name recognition than Delaine Eastin and Travis Allen, both who have been included in past debates.  

“There have now been several televised and webcast gubernatorial debates,” the scientists write, “and yet polls show that more voters say they are undecided than say they will vote for any particular candidate.”

The poll was done by a well-regarded Oakland-based polling firm that has worked for Democratic candidates including Gov. Jerry Brown for three decades. The pollsters write:

From February 14-19, 2018, EMC Research completed a survey of likely June 2018 voters in California. The survey included favorable ratings on likely candidates for Governor. As seen in other public polling, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is well-known among voters and leads the field in favorable rating, with a 48% favorable and 26% unfavorable rating. Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is also well-known among voters, but has an intense unfavorable rating with one-in-five voters (20%) having a strongly unfavorable opinion of him. And newcomer to the race Michael Shellenberger, while trailing frontrunners, enters the race with better name ID than former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. See the chart below for favorable ratings in the race.

Past California gubernatorial debates have been stale and superficial, with disagreement among Democrats limited to the narrow issue of how to achieve universal health care, but never seriously address the state’s interconnected housing, poverty, and inequality crises.

“Nearly half of voters say they are not satisfied with the candidate choices,” the letter authors note, “and half say they would like to see candidates with “‘new ideas and a different approach.’”

By including me in the debates, Californians would hear ideas they haven’t been exposed to, such as: changing the school schedule and calendar to allow more instruction time; using nuclear energy to mitigate climate change and chronic droughts; and expanding homeownership to Millennials.

If the state’s newspapers and TV networks exclude me from the debates, I will live tweet during each one in an evidence- and vision-based way. And through it all, I will offer a positive vision of how we can create a California for all.


Open letter to those hosting California’s gubernatorial debates

March 6, 2018

Mr. Patrick Soon-Shiang, Owner

Mr. Jim Kirk, Editor-in-Chief

Mr. Nicholas Goldberg, Editor of the Editorial Pages

Los Angeles Times

202 W. 1st St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Messrs Soon-Shiang, Kirk, and Goldberg,

Thank you for your long-standing commitment to freedom of expression, democracy, and pluralism.

We are writing as scientists, scholars, and citizens to encourage you to broaden California’s gubernatorial debates to include Michael Shellenberger. Without endorsing all of his policy positions, we believe his participation in the debates would be salutary for California’s democracy. 

Michael qualifies for inclusion. He is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” and a respected energy and environmental researcher, educator, and advocate.

A new poll [pdf] by EMC Research finds that Michael has higher favorability and name recognition than two other candidates, Delaine Eastin (D) and Travis Allen (R), who have until now been included in gubernatorial debates.

Where a candidate stands in the polls is a more fair way to determine whether a candidate should be included in a debate than how much money he or she has raised. Relying on money raised as a deciding variable allows wealthy candidates, and those who have taken significant quantities of funding from special interests, to effectively buy their way into debates.

Michael should not be excluded from the debates simply because he entered the race later than the other candidates. On the contrary. There have now been several televised and webcast gubernatorial debates and yet polls show that more voters say they are undecided than say they will vote for any particular candidate.

Nearly half of voters say they are not satisfied with the candidate choices and half say they would like to see candidates with “new ideas and a different approach.”

By including Michael into the debates, you would allow a broader set of ideas to be discussed that have not been discussed to date, such as changes to the school calendar to allow more instruction time; the use of nuclear energy to mitigate climate change; and new approaches to the state’s housing and homelessness crisis.

We thank you again for your commitment to pluralistic democracy and for your consideration of including Michael. We hope to hear from you soon.


Martin Lewis, Department of Geography, Stanford University

Burton Richter, Nobel Prize Winner, Stanford University

Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Half Moon Bay, California

Norris McDonald, President, Environmental Hope & Justice, Los Angeles

Peter H. Raven, Winner of the National Medal of Science, 2001, graduate, St. Ignatius, San Francisco

David Lea, Professor, Earth Science, University of California

Michelle Marvier, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University

Steve McCormick, Former CEO, The Nature Conservancy, Los Altos, California

James Hansen, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author, Enlightenment Now

Tom Wigley, Climate and Energy Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO

Andrew McAfee, MIT, co-author, The Second Machine Age

Dalton Conley, Department of Sociology, Princeton University

Roger Pielke Jr., Professor, University of Colorado

John Lavine, Professor and Medill Dean Emeritus, Northwestern University\

John Crary, Mill Valley

Cc: The Sacramento Bee

The San Francisco Chronicle

The San Jose Mercury News

The San Diego Union Tribune

The Orange County Register

Affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, Univision

League of Women Voters

Democratic Party of California

College and Universities of California

Michael Shellenberger