Panel underscores “urgency” of climate change

Caroline Kehrli, Caroline Fassett, Staff Writer, News Editor

“There’s a very sophisticated fear and frustration within the United States … the way we talk about what my country does for me and what I do for my country—it’s outdated,” Associate Professor of History Claire Campbell said.

In presenting a litany of professors who are each experts in diverging fields, a panel titled “Climate Change Policy: We’re all Responsible!” boasted a range of perspectives on the subject of climate change. The event was held on Feb. 25 and united professors from various disciplines. These professors outlined the need for fundamental restructuring of the global economy and addressed the pressing issue of climate change. Associate Professor of Management Neil Boyd moderated the panel and shared his belief that climate change is a topic that individuals certainly have a right to be concerned about.

Students in attendance had the chance to voice their opinions about the governmental role in relation to climate change. Many raised major questions regarding states’ ability to make substantial changes in response to growing climate concerns.

“I thought it was interesting [that] the panelists discussed how climate change affects the world, instead of solely focusing on [how it affects] the United States … [t]he students in the audience seemed to want a simple answer for immediate steps to take to control climate change,” Anya Lilaoonwala ’18 said.

Campbell discussed the historical perspective of climate change and how climate change policy is deeply affected by the extent to which Americans do not want government interference in their lives. She was able to examine climate change from the perspective of a native of Canada, a country rich in oil, natural gas, and coal. Campbell considered the recent Paris Climate Change Conference in November 2015 where an international agreement was made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The “new government may be making something more of a commitment to make climate adaptation,” Campbell said.

Campbell also recognized that many Americans fear the notion of government interference in their day-to-day lives, which the ratification of this agreement would procure.    

Visiting Assistant Professor of International Relations Emma Mullaney discussed the importance of American leadership in finding a solution to this issue. The discourse surrounding climate change has often been kept separate from biodiversity negotiations. This is not productive, as the two strongly influence each other. The United States’ lack of involvement in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is troubling, Mullaney said. The president of the United States does not attend such summits on biological diversity, so not much support from the media and public is generated.

“Challenging what is defined as realistic or possible is our job,” Mullaney said.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Matthew Slater also spoke at the panel. Slater pointed out the moral dimensions in the economic choices that we make. He pondered whether fossil fuels can soon be replaced by more eco-friendly sources of energy, and whether market policies can mitigate climate change. He concluded that only “once the reality of urgency has been acknowledged” can any true progress be made.

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