Educators discuss climate change, encourage students to get involved in issue

Leaders in U.S. climate change spoke Wednesday at a forum to discuss the issue and its potential policies.

The forum, co-sponsored by the University’s Center for Business and Public Policy, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs and the Environmental Change Institute, brought Nobel prize winner Charles Kolstad, former Yale administrator Nathaniel Keohane and professor of finance Don Fullerton to the Business Instructional Facility for the discussion.

Jeff Brown, director of the Center for Business and Public Policy, said the group included world renowned environmental economists. Keohane is part of the Environmental Defense Fund, a nongovernmental organization and advocacy group, he added.

Brown said climate change is an important, controversial, complex and global topic.

“This is not something that one individual, one country or one government can solve on its own,” he said.

“There’s debate about the magnitude of the problem; there’s debate about the right way to approach it and when.”

Kolstad said it was a bad idea for the U.S. to wait for another country to act first on the climate policy issue.

“If we fail to act and it turns out to be as bad as some of the scenarios suggest, we could really be jeopardizing the well–being of future generations,” Brown said.

“On the other hand, if we overreact or we react in an inefficient way, we could be imposing enormous costs on current and future generations that were perhaps unnecessary.”

Fullerton said climate change is potentially the biggest problem the world will face.

“It’s important for people to understand how it’s going to work, what’s a good idea, why we should do one thing over the other, and be involved in the process,” he said.

Keohane said if the industrialized world continues to release carbon emissions, it is heading toward dangerous climate change.

“We’ve got to make a turn,” Keohane said.

“It has to happen at the global and U.S. level.”

Keohane added that the U.S. needs to make policies that create rewards for innovation and let entrepreneurs and individuals figure out what works.

Aaron Shilkaitis, senior in LAS, said he found the climate change presentation more optimistic than most lectures on the topic.

“I agree that fighting for climate change from an economic perspective is going to be the best way to address it because our economy is our livelihood,” Shilkaitis said.

“I think a carbon tax or cap and trade is going to be inevitable.”

Brown said students should take advantage of forums such as this one to prepare themselves for dealing with important issues in the future.

“There’s so much more to getting a really good college education than just doing your homework and taking exams,” he said.

“I would really encourage students to take advantage of these types of opportunities, not just this event but other ones on campus. These are really big, enormous issues that we’re going to be dealing with for a long time.”