SMLS: The Climate Change Debate

SMLS: The Climate Change Debate

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Christian Holm
October 31, 2016

Few issues matter more to today’s college students than climate change.


The Washington Center’s fall 2016 students had the opportunity to dig deeper into the issue with two leading voices in the climate change debate at the second Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series of the semester on Friday, Oct. 28.


Directory of Strategic Engagement for Natural Resources Defense Council Bob Deans and Senior Research Fellow in Energy Economics and Climate Change at The Heritage Foundation David Kreutzer engaged with students in a comprehensive debate about the causes, challenges and solutions to the climate change issue. Moderating the discussion was Washington Times Political Editor Andrew Restuccia.


Deans favors more government involvement in trying to combat the climate, including carbon emission regulations and subsidies for the clean power industry. Kreutzer took a different stance, acknowledging that climate change is an issue but not an imminent disaster and warning that energy regulations would negatively impact low income people and cause more human suffering than climate change could.


CSPAN Senior Political Editor and SMLS Faculty Director Steve Scully turned things over to students, who then furthered the conversation with several provocative questions:


Tyler Watson (Institution: East Tennessee State University; Internship: Marzulla Law, LLC) If we were to regulate the energy industry, including our coal industry, how would be offset those job losses?


Deans: Nationwide we have 52,000 coal jobs and every single one of those jobs are important. We also have 380,000 people working in the clean energy sector. Those are the jobs of the future. We need to connect more people with the skills that would bring them into this industry by expanding jobs training programs and repositioning coal communities for success.


Kreutzer: We don’t want policies that needlessly get rid of jobs. And we definitely don't want to expand programs that don’t work. Federal jobs programs are a continued disaster, these programs don’t always lead to actual jobs. Green jobs number shave also been very exaggerated. We also need to understand that coal mining today is different today, we have cleaner coal.


Mackenize Holst (Institution: Texas Christian University; Internship: UPS Public Affairs) Some have argued that investing in cleaner energy would be very expensive, but if we are only spending less than 1 % of our GDP on renewable energy, how can that be considered too much?


Kreutzer: It’s not just about what we spend on renewables - it’s about how much we restrict access to affordable energy. Regulations will increase the cost of energy, making it really tough for the poor and middle class to have disposable income and put money back in the economy.


Deans: It’s always interesting to hear people in D.C. get concerned about low income folks when change will impact a wealthy industry. We all pay a price for climate change and pollution, but low income communities are paying the biggest price.


(Institution: Dickinson College; Internship: Securing Water for Food) Knowing that we will eventually exhaust our resources and knowing that the climate will likely change regardless of how much we regulate, how will governments and markets adapt to these changes?


Kreutzer: I think there are some myths about how much we consume in relation to how much resources we have. Innovation allows us to expand our resources and discover new ones. We won’t stop using fossil fuels because we run out, it will be because we move on to something better. In the meantime, there is no reason to needlessly drive up energy prices.


Deans: We are talking about a single questions today. Are we going to continue to be dependent on dangerous energy or will be shift to better options? We will eventually make the shift and it’s going to be on your generation to teach us how.


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