Climate, Government, and the Economy: Reform or Transformation?

Just another WordPress site

Climate, Government, and the Economy: Reform or Transformation?

hello my name is phillip lovejoy and i’m the executive director of the harvard alumni association it’s my pleasure to welcome you to the second of our conversations on climate this one titled climate government and the economy the harvard alumni association helped to create this series of events in partic in partnership with many dedicated alumni volunteers because we wanted to play a significant role in convening diverse voices to discuss the existential threat of climate change and to learn from each other we collectively felt we had a responsibility to connect the many experts and climate leaders from across the university both students and faculty and of course alumni to help us understand the many dimensions of the crisis we face personally coming from a conservation-minded family who have done their part to protect thousands of acres of pristine wilderness in new hampshire where i’m zooming in from today i find the topics being addressed in this series of conversations to be of the utmost importance to us all as i mentioned these programs have been developed by the aha working with our colleagues at the harvard office for sustainability and in partnership with a number of alumni groups the members of the harvard radcliffe college class of 1969 the harvard alumni for climate and the environment and my friends and neighbors from the harvard club of new hampshire the coming together of all these communities to address climate makes me hopeful for the future climate change is deeply complex and will require all our good thinking efforts and yes votes to get us through i’m grateful for everyone’s dedication and hard work to bring all this together these events are intentionally called conversations as we hope they will drive further conversation in your communities and that the conversation will lead to action it is now my pleasure to introduce today’s moderator miles rapaport from harvard college class of 1971 is senior practice fellow in american democracy at the ash center for democratic governance and innovation at the harvard kennedy school i’m delighted that miles is serving as our moderator given his work as an elected official and long-time organizer and policy advocate i’ll now turn the floor over to miles phil thank you very much uh for that nice introduction and i want to welcome everybody to the climate government and the economy uh reform or transformation that’s the topic of this version or this session of the series we’re here to discuss an incredibly important and fraught topic at an incredibly important and fraught moment in american history we have an extraordinary group of panelists for the discussion today so i don’t need to make much in the way of introductory remarks but before we dig into the topic let me make a few preliminary comments first we at ash believe it is important to say that the land that harvard sits on today was originally the land of the massachusetts nation and it was a spot for centuries where nations came together to discuss issues second i want to thank the significant group of sponsors and co-sponsors that phil has already mentioned and i want to give special thanks to valerie nelson and terence mcnally for initiating imagining this discussion and inviting me to participate today is the second installment of a series of five sessions of the harmon harvard climate conversations first event which featured president bakau and top climate change leaders took place on september 23rd the next event changing hearts and minds about climate change will be on november 18th and hopefully you’ll get good notices about that we’re about to have a serious discussion and thoughtful about the issues of climate change the role that government market actors and environmental activists and citizens need to play to grapple with the enormous challenges ahead we also see this as an opportunity to connect with each other and connect all of you with organizations and links that are doing that so links will be posted in the chat as we go along and you can take take them as you as you get them to state which we pretty much all know by now if you’re joining on zoom questions can be placed in the q a box if you’re watching on youtube ask your questions in the chat box and they will be shared with me so as i said we have four extraordinary panelists today from very different vantage points in the climate change discussion we’re going to proceed as a conversation not as a formal presentation format their bios are mostly very long and impressive and there are links to them and some of their work on the screen so just introduce them very quickly in the order that i will ask the first question phil duffy leads the woodwell climate research center until recently known as the woods hole research center

prior to joining woodwell as executive director in 2015 phil worked on climate science research climate change communications and as an advisor to the obama white house ken muraff is the head of the water division of new england region one office of the environmental protection agency has worked on environmental issues in and through government for a long time and he knows and will share with us what it is really good at and what new challenges it’s facing as the climate change situation develops connor chung is a harvard student class of 2023 he’s the one with a shorter resume but he’s already made a powerful mark as an environmental activist supporting fossil fuel develop divestment activities at harvard and quite remarkably helping to organize a recent statement of a hundred economists about that was published in the guardian calling for a bold environment and economic justice agenda lastly danielle allen is a good friend of mine and the james bryant university professor at harvard kennedy school and the director of the edmond j safra center on ethics one principal focus of danielle’s work is the study of democracy and citizenship but she is passionate about climate change economic and racial justice and the practice of political political economy as well danielle recently co-chaired the commission on the practice of democratic citizenship the american academy of arts and sciences where i had the privilege of working with her i’m going to start with a brief question to each panelist which is how did you get to and how did you become dedicated to the climate change work that you’re doing now that’s a short answer and then i’ll come back and talk to each of you about how you view the challenges ahead from your vantage point focusing if you can on what can be done what can work and what we need to do i have a small advantage in that we talked the other day and i have a couple of quotes from you to start off with anyway after that after that second round of questions we’ll go to the uh questions from the chat and make sure we leave enough time to give concluding remarks the opportunity for concluding remarks to each of the panelists so may start if i can with a question to phil murray phil as the full-time scientists among us what do you see is the challenges ahead and what can science teach us about what it is that we need to do you said the other day when we talked that quote when i started on climate change in 1990 it was kind of a theoretical proposition sure today the impacts are so much clearer the questions have become so much clearer and we as we manage how we met as places begin to become uninhabitable and how can we achieve cooperation when conflict and isolation can often be the prevalent responses phil why don’t you get us started with the scientific uh so that that’s a lot and and i’m happy to do that i uh but maybe i’ll first i’ll just address how your first question which is how how did i get interested in this to begin or how did i come to be in this field to begin with and i’m sorry i jumped ahead yes to the first question we’ll come back the answer the answer to that is what the answer always is which is that it starts with my mother uh and the story is that in the late 1980s i had recently gotten a doctorate in physics and my mom at that time who was also a physicist was an academic climate researcher in fact at brown university and i started talking to her about what she was doing and it seemed like well it just aroused my interest and it aroused my interest because i i saw it as an opportunity to do something that would make use of my technical skills but also have direct an immediate societal benefit great okay remember the second question so i don’t repeat it again and again my apologies for running them together all right ken how about you how did you get to where you are um well so i remember sitting in 1985 in pound hall in a class on how to be a government lawyer and speakers came in every week and talked about how satisfying it was to dive into these really complicated problems where there are so many trade-offs and pros and cons and no clear solutions and their job was to weigh all of that and decide how we’re going to move forward as a society to tackle these challenges and i just thought that sounded like the hardest and most interesting job in the world and so i was just passionate about going into public service and when i saw an ad in the newspaper this is how long ago it was it was an ad and a newspaper for a job at epa i was just thrilled i got my start in this movement on the first earth day like a lot of people my age

and have now worked at epa on water issues in new england for the last 30 years and if you’re dealing with water issues you are dealing with climate change because we’re continually rebuilding our water infrastructure so what climate conditions do we need to build for how do we protect sewer systems and treatment plants from rising sea levels how do we protect our wetlands and lakes and rivers that are most threatened by temperature change how do we make sure our drinking water supplies are sustainable and this is true in a lot of areas now people who didn’t get jobs working on climate change are working on climate change because the issue came to them and so that’s how i got here all right great uh connor how about you how did you get into the into the activism that you’re doing now yeah absolutely so i don’t remember exactly when it was as a child that i first began to consciously think about this issue but i do remember growing up just being absolutely terrified of the reality of climate crisis you know as a young person i think sometimes news of of of what’s going on hits differently it’s not a matter of of statistics and charts but a matter of our futures and our presence being on the line um i think that recent months have only shown that the climate dread of young people is entirely justified it’s hard to cry alarmism when you know one coast is on fire well droughts and hurricanes pound the rest and adding to this sort of dread is is the continued failure of of governments of economic and financial institutions and other structures of power to take some of those basic steps towards climate action to solve the climate crisis we’re going to need nothing short of a bottom-up reimagining of our economic and financial systems everything that’s happening in the world right now is hopefully creating a moment where that’s possible where we have a golden opportunity to secure a better future for ourselves and our children um as i started to get involved in the world of activism um i found it such a source of hope on this terrifying issue at this juncture in history the voice of activism matters and that’s why i look forward to exploring these issues with my fellow panelists can’t wait thank you all great i think you had a fabulous quote when you said that the end of uh kind of more or less what you were just saying now is that activism is the cure for dread so i i i’m taking that to heart uh danielle how about you how did you get into this kind of work well i have to confess i’m more of a newcomer in this space in that regard i think your introduction of me was a little generous so i am what i would say i’ve been a lazy supporter of climate change for much of my adult life whenever i drive a prius that kind of thing if you know what i mean um and then um when i came to harvard in 2015 i started working on questions of political economy and justice and i’m talking a lot with rebecca henderson in the business school who tightly integrates questions of climate change to the question of a sustainable economy and that was really helpful to me and helped me see how some of my intellectual work could be more tightly linked to the project of climate change but for me the actual turning point moment with regard to my own degree of commitment came i can tell you exactly who was the morning after the 2016 election because i taught a 9 a.m class so i was the first point of contact for a room full of undergraduates processing the 2016 election and a young man stood up in a class he was the first person to speak and share his thoughts and he gave the most compelling speech i’ve ever heard in any context about the failure of my generation to understand and respect the needs of his generation exactly the points conor just made the fact that uh existential futurity is on the line for everybody conor’s age and younger and that we above that age line had not seen that and taken it to heart i recognized at that moment that this issue is the vietnam for this generation and it was overdue for me to understand that fully and fully engaged so i’ve sought now to engage my intellectual work both again in the work and political economy and the work on governance because to connor’s point there’s been a real failure of governance around this issue and i think that there’s some deep work we can do on structures of governance to make it possible for us to achieve change danielle we have to find that student and thank him for driving you to the uh to the climate change issue all right let me go back to phil phil and uh i won’t repeat the question but you’re gonna kind of give us our grounding as people are fond of saying these days uh in the science uh thank you and maybe uh if that student’s old enough now maybe we can get him or her to run for president uh so yeah i’m gonna set the context for

the conversation by telling us well reviewing a bit of what science says is at stake and what science tells us we need to do to help manage the risk and i’ll start actually 10 000 years ago when something extraordinary happened and what happened roughly 10 000 years ago is that the wild swings of temperature which had up until that point or for the last million or so years characterized earth’s climate suddenly stopped and the earth again about 10 000 years ago entered a period which we were still in until quite recently of unprecedented climatic stability uh and also warmth so the climate changed from being this volatile hostile thing uh to being warm and benign and we think that that is why civilization started to develop roughly at that time about 10 000 years ago for example with the simultaneous emergence and several parts or near simultaneous emergence in several parts of the world of of the practice of agriculture uh which obviously is foundational with civilization so the the message i think from that for us today is that a safe and stable climate is foundational uh to human well-being uh fast forward to later in the last century it was around the 1970s when scientists started to have serious conversations about human influences on climate and it turns out actually coincidentally that for example the first national academy of sciences report on human influences of climate as it happens was written in woods hole massachusetts where i’m speaking to you from in 1979. now at that time the idea that humans would could change climate was entirely theoretical it wasn’t something that at that point we’d seen in observations that didn’t happen the detection of human influences and actual observations didn’t happen until the early 1990s and in 1995 united nations body of sciences called intergovernmental panel on climate change made the first statement of okay we see in the earth’s temperature record we see signs of human influences meaning fossil fuel burning and deforestation so that was 1995 now at that time uh although human influences were detectable uh they certainly weren’t prominent and it took a careful statistical analysis in fact uh to reveal them uh what’s happened in the intervening 25 years of course is that these the human impacts on climate have become uh very very obvious and very very material and in fact quite disruptive and we’re seeing that in things like increases in wildfire connor mentioned tropical cyclone activity floods extreme heat and so forth all of those things which are changes in the physical environment translate uh into human consequences and those human consequences include things like increases in food scarcity increases and water scarcity uh decreased ability to work outside human health impacts and so on and in my mind the big big issue that literally keeps me up at night is the idea of as parts of the world become difficult to inhabit the idea of large-scale migration either caused or contributed to by climate change and i think history shows us that large-scale migration is not something that we handle gracefully it leads to nationalism it leads to armed conflict it leads to political instability and and for me the big big challenge is that the climate change itself which requires unprecedented levels of cooperation at the same time the effects of climate change push us in exactly the opposite direction push us towards isolationism and nationalism and in my mind that’s one of the big big challenges we need to address now in terms of scientifically what do we need to do to stop climate change we need to do two things and one is we need to stop making the problem worse we need to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in order to limit warming to what we think is an acceptable level we need to do that by around the middle of the century around 2050. now that alone stopping the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere it’s important to understand doesn’t make climate change better it simply stops it from getting worse

and we think therefore also that in order to limit the warming to what we believe to be an acceptable level we need in addition to remove a large quantity of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere much more in fact than we know how to do right now so we face enormous challenges there’s a role there for individuals role there for governments role for the private sector uh in in my work at woodwall we work with all three of those groups i hope i get a chance to discuss uh some of what we’re doing but for the moment uh i’ll turn the floor uh back over to miles thank you phil that was uh a ten thousand year tour in about five minutes that’s not bad um all right ken uh let me ask you you’ve been in government for a long time it’s clear that government and governments internationally must play a key role in the solution of this crisis you said in our conversation government functions best when there is a clear and discreet problem to solve but with climate change the problem our problems are included incredibly complex with all kinds of actors that need that are non-governmental needing to be involved so this is a new kind of uh environment and how can government be at its best as we go forward uh thanks miles so so i’m going to give you the perspective of a practitioner and that perspective is that the government is very good at solving problems that have clear boundaries for example from my area of work if you have a river that’s polluted because of what’s coming out of a pipe we have all kinds of tools to address that it’s just a question of picking the right tool and we’re pretty good at solving problems even that are much more complicated than that lots of pipes maybe all different kinds of pipes can be different tools to address different types we’re still pretty good at that because it’s still a problem that has clear boundaries it’s a water infrastructure problem we just need more engineers and a great local example of this is the boston harbor cleanup which was a massive cleanup problem of huge incredible complexity that required enormous resources but the dimensions and the boundaries of the problem were clear so with enough time and money we were able to solve it climate change on the other hand is a problem that has few boundaries there it is entwined with so many other issues as others have already mentioned on this panel there’s a whole system that is part of them to become more resilient to deal with climate we we have to it’s going to affect the way our neighborhoods are designed our transportation systems housing our water systems the economy as danielle mentioned there are real fairness issues there are all kinds of interconnections and feedback loops in within this system so it’s very complicated the silver lining of all that is that if we’re able to develop the capacity to deal with these issues on a on this complex system level we will find all kinds of synergies and solutions that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise and i’ll give you an illustration there are a lot of communities are looking at green infrastructure as a way to become more resilient to climate change restore the natural water cycle prevent flooding that kind of thing but those all cost money and so you the municipalities are always weighing the cost and benefit of those kinds of projects but what if those projects if you looked at them as part of the larger system you might realize they could also solve a water pollution problem because the same pavement where the runoff is causing the flooding also carries pollutants into our rivers and streams and cities and towns are making investments to solve those pollution problems but maybe the same green infrastructure could address that problem at the same time as it’s addressing climate resilience if only you designed it with both things in mind at the same time you’re solving two problems at once that could tip the cost benefit formula in a different direction what if the same community also had a water supply issue there are cities and towns in new england that can’t their economic development is constrained because they run out of water so if you design a green infrastructure resilience program with that issue also in mind you could unlock some real economic rewards and maybe solutions that you wouldn’t have found otherwise if you’re looking at this more system level so that’s a simple example um to illustrate the concept that systems thinking in the climate change world is really important we can’t solve these problems without looking at all these interconnections and we’ll find better solutions the more we’re able to look at that type of complexity the challenge

is for all of us government included to get better at that type of problem solving and and to do it without making it so complicated that you just throw up your hands in despair because everything is connected to everything else so you can’t really do anything we can’t tell people to go out and solve all the world’s problems at once but we do need to find the most important connections and do system level problem solving at the right scope and scale so i hope we’ll have a chance later to talk about some specific examples but i’ll stop there and to move on to the rest of the panel great ken thank you very very much uh conor in some ways you uh embody the connections the interconnections that ken was just talking about i mean you’ve been a climate activist um but you also ventured into the realm of economics recently by organizing um a group of 100 economists from all around the world uh in a kind of a project that went went almost kind of viral and when it was published in the guardian so why don’t you tell us about that as uh and it’ll in a way be a an interesting um example of what some solutions can be as well absolutely um so i think if i’d be like the second what um what uh ken and phil were saying about the need to consider consider the the interconnections when it comes to solving this issue um and i think if what’s going on in the world now is proving anything is that these issues of injustice intertwine that so long as a warming world disproportionately impacts uh some more than others we cannot avoid the fact that climate justice is economic justice social justice is racial justice and so on this isn’t just a talking point but but a reality take uh take two uh present crises uh you know deep-rooted racism in america and uh the pandemic there’s a lot of wonderful research talking about how you know um a warming world makes public health crisis more frequent and that communes of color face the highest rates of of air too toxic to breathe and water to your drink um now for a while these questions of justice were seen as in some ways separate from the economic and the financial questions um we as as the student campaign that i’m part of were were kind of frustrated that you know we and others rather talking about the the need to consider climate justice well parts of the economic and financial professions were instead trying to approach it to this very sterile sort of lens of of carbon accounting and incentive aligning a view that we felt was perhaps too myopic to fully uh address this issue so we decided we’d seek to tr to try to change that conversation a little bit and so we organized an open letter it was an open letter that sought to move beyond the very narrow sort of view and push for an economic recovery with climate action as a guiding principle a letter moreover that was rooted in considerations of climate justice and fairness uh to quote from that letter briefly one moment let me make sure i’m not misquoting my own letter um the carbon economy amplifies and begets racial social and economic inequalities creating a system that is fundamentally incompatible with a stable future if we fail to act now the present moment may merely be a preview of what is to come as we are forced into ever more painful situations and trade-offs it is naive more for two medicines we can simply nudge the fossil fuel industry um so on into good behavior instead we should recognize that the present moment creates an opportunity to bring about a better future for ourselves and our children by taking on the carbon economy we can begin charting a pathway towards economic recovery while building a fairer more sustainable world in the process um hopefully this is one small part of a broader change uh towards a away from a very atomized approach to this problem towards a big picture understanding necessary to tackle this crisis that’s one way in which as a harvard student i was super honored to be part of this uh broader conversation okay it was uh for the for those who i see the letters on the chat it’s uh quite an impressive list of uh of economists many uh many nobel prize winners in the group uh danielle uh you know you obviously as as connor has just said these problems of of climate change um racial justice economic justice social inequality are all all tied together and i know you’ve been doing some new work on political economy of of the issues i’d love to hear you talk about this and um you know we’ll come back to the kind of solution-oriented oriented questions in a in in a in a few but what have you learned from your recent

work and what you have to add to this thanks miles i appreciate it no i think um a number of the things i’d like to say tie together parts of what others have said so i do think we can take the crises of the last six months as a kind of microcosm for a way of thinking about the problem of climate change so kovid for example um protests against police brutality they have the same shape from a governance point of view namely our political institutions have been unable to deliver effective solutions um in the case of police brutality people have known you know been advocating for more than a decade about what the right kinds of responses are with regard to police retraining shifting of resources inside municipal budgets a variety of things so it’s not as if there isn’t clarity about the diagnosis of the problem and also pathways to solutions yet our political institutions are not able to deliver um any kinds of solutions and i think in conor’s opening statement when he was describing his experience as a young person i mean that that really came out in his remarks right sort of a recognition on the part of young people that the institutions of democracy are failing and one of their core responsibilities namely responsiveness to urgent public crises so in that regard i think that really highlights um one of the pieces of the solution that we need which is to say reform to our political institutions in order to achieve responsiveness that is if they’re not functional we can’t actually address any of these issues and to some extent i think the non-functionality around climate um has developed a dynamic in our political discussion where some people sort of throw up their hands and say well like you know you want us to heck with this democracy stuff i mean it’s not going to work we need to drive change in a sort of more forceful top-down way and we should accept a kind of technocratic expert-driven decision-making structures instead of robust democratic structures that empower ordinary people so in that regard i think actually the climate crisis is contributing to a crisis in our structures of democratic governance and whether or not they have legitimacy and ongoing viability themselves so we have to make them responsive so that they can address issues like climate as a part of securing a constitutional democracy um so you mentioned the democracy reform work i’ve been working on i mean there’s a host of things that can give us more responsive political institutions and they range from things like ranked choice voting to multi-member districts um to reigning in campaign finance i won’t go through the whole list but i would commend a report called our common purpose put out by the american academy of arts and sciences and the reason that i am going through all of that is just to say that i do think it’s really important that for example the democracy reform movement and the climate justice movement link arms um these two bodies of work of activism and engagement operate in separate spaces i think both would be stronger through the forging of alliances and then this brings me around to the political economy point actually because in the um question of what does it take for us to refashion a political economy that incorporates inside the structures of the economy the costs to climate of our economic decision making and that actually permits us to make decisions about those costs i think there too we need different governance structures so we’ve had a very um rigid regulatory approach um danny roderick one of the economists who signed conor’s letter has really articulated working with a colleague at columbia named chuck sable a different approach to regulation which is in itself actually also more democratic where you really work through private public partnerships at all levels national regional local to deal with the complexity that ken was pointing to so in other words the pre-existing regulatory model that we use um does fit you know what ken described as well-defined problems um it doesn’t fit the the complex systems problem space that ken was pointing to and for that we do actually need a different kind of governance structure in order to deliver solutions but the last thing i would say about ken’s point about being able to think in a systems fashion is i would i would add one i would turn the crank one more time on that idea i like to talk about the need for integrated policy making and that is the kind of systems thinking that ken was pointing to but it’s also about integrating direct consideration of questions of norms and values the reason the solution space is so complicated is because it’s also about setting priorities so when we know we want to clear up boston harbor that’s a stable problem because we’ve been able to prioritize that within the set of things that municipality or state is thinking about doing and the kinds of choices of prioritization that addressing climate change put on the table are enormously complicated and involved as conor was saying just fundamental questions of justice really who ends up living where on the globe who vibrates who doesn’t migrate how much is invested in prohibiting or avoiding migration as opposed to various forms of incorporation of people in new places etc so all the kind of fundamental questions of justice and social organization are at stake and so in that regard in addition to

needing systems thinking one has to actually integrate intentional orientation to norms values questions of justice so that we can clarify our priorities that is really hard work um so i’m glad we’re having this conversation because i think we can collectively build the resources to do it but we should acknowledge that it’s hard work thanks danielle i actually want to take this opportunity to go back to uh to fill just a little bit um on the question of kind of solutions and public-private partnerships and you know the kind of things that you see potentially uh working as we go forward well sure there’s there’s a lot i could say there um obviously i you know i i’ve worked both in government and in my present role uh i work with leaders in the world of business and finance and i you know i see distinct roles uh for both of those types of organizations and one of the things i’ll just touch on what government can do it and then and then talk about our work with the private sector uh i think one of the main things that government can do is change incentive structures uh and through things like carbon taxes danielle just mentioned policies about where do people live where do we provide emergency services where do we provide state-funded insurance programs and so forth managing risk all of those things are roles of government and on a local level governments are dealing with excuse me the consequences of climate change things like increased flood risk storm surge and so forth and and those are terribly challenging problems and we work a bit with local governments here in the cave and like many they’re under resource that they don’t have either the financial or the intellectual resources to really come to grips with these problems uh governments also play a regulation i think plays a very very important role i mean if you look at jurisdictions which have good comprehensive climate policies like california they have a combination of carbon pricing through a cabin trade system but they also have a regulatory program and finally the third i think really important role of government is particularly national level government is international cooperation and international leadership and for the united states in particular as a leading nation and as a leading greenhouse gas emitter it’s really really important for us as a nation to set an example in addressing this challenge let me just turn to the role of the private sector and i’ll just illustrate uh well describe the work that we’re doing at woodwell again with leaders in the world of business and finance and one of the things we’re doing and i’ll just say our approach is uh well why do we do this work we do it partly because we think what we know that the private sector needs to have an important role in addressing climate change they can do things like allocate capital and the private sector can also manage risk for example uh through the insurance industry so we work with them because we think they have that they have an important role to play i should also say that the private sector has a powerful political voice and can have a powerful political voice if they choose to use it so our and our approach to working with the private sector is a little unusual in the sense that it’s based not on appealing to anyone’s altruism or civic mindedness but rather on fundamentally on appealing to their self-interest so for example we work with investors we work with a large multinational consulting firm mckenzie and company which advises corporations and the theme of this work is that climate change is a risk it’s a risk to the businesses you revise it’s a risk to the businesses you invest in and it’s essential for these folks for all of us to understand those risks recognize those risks and manage those risks and again for us as a non-profit which is what woodward climate research center is our goal is that as the private sector comes to grips with the fact that climate change is a material risk uh material business risk right now they will start to take steps to address that risk including using their voice to engage politically engaging politically and uh and the national policy these are the first

question from the audience and i think i’ll throw it to ken first uh and that is what what do you think are the most a couple of the most effective national policies that could be enacted um you know at this point um well so i’ll give you i guess a new england perspective because we’re we are a new england regional office the issue of resilience and especially to water but also temperature and other climate impacts is so critical here and it’s there’s a lot of work that has to be local but there are also there’s a real need for the federal government to bring in tools and support to states and communities that are grappling with these issues so i think that’s really critical i really liked what danielle had to say about the need for partnerships among all the levels of government because some of these issues are local but even the local issues you can’t ask a local dpw to develop a climate resilience plan without providing support and that can come from the state level but it’s also really important to come from the federal level so we we are investing in those issues there’s a lot more that could be done um and just to take it one step beyond there um and this was also a point danielle made engaging the public in these issues is absolutely critical and that is one of the ways that some of the values and norms of communities can come into play here and help determine what path we take we need much better ways of engaging the public than the traditional government approach of you put out a draft you ask for comments you have hearings we need to actually have much more proactive engagement of communities and all communities making sure we’re reaching people who don’t typically engage things like that provide people the tools and information to engage in a meaningful way and really listen great okay i want to go from the from the local to the international heather tells me that there are a number of questions about how we should think about and what the can be done to really prioritize the needs of the underdeveloped countries around climate change who are in some ways tremendously impacted by it anyone who want to try to sort of take a take a crack at that okay jump in unless if somebody else is caught you go first and then phil you can get in um i think that this is one of the hardest questions there is but that’s true across all policy domains that is it’s not simply true across around with regard to climate change it’s also true around migration policy around economic policy and conventionally we think of these domains as policies separate from one another i think this is the kind of point of the conversation that we’re all having is the importance of bringing these conversations together um and so for me and this may be different from others one of the most important questions is about empowerment um within structures of global decision making so again i do come back to questions of governance um and you know ask questions about the relationship between the un and national sovereignty and national decision making and so forth and the impacts of the way those things are currently structured on what’s possible for the developing world so a lot more to be said there but let me let the others come in as well yeah sure and perhaps i’m going to state the obvious but i’ll state it anyway and that is in my mind one of the most important things that we we can do uh is to help the developing world develop without the use of fossil fuels and and the reason that that’s so critical is that it’s the developing economies which have the greatest potential for growth in greenhouse gas emissions and in fact it’s the developing economies where greenhouse gas emissions are in fact now growing and it’s in it’s very very much in our own self-interest to help those economies develop through the use of very low carbon energy sources and there’s actually a mechanism in the paris climate agreement for that it’s called the green climate fund this is a bug bear of certain political constituencies in the in the united states right now because it involves uh giving money to poor folks uh but again you know it’s it’s very very directly in our own self-interest to help these economies bypass fossil fuels and develop

using using low-carbon energy sources and it’s also very much in our self-interest as well as being humanitarian to help these developing economies cope with the effects of climate change which it’s very well documented will have a disproportionate impact on them and that is a that is a very real fairness issue because those economies have contributed very very little uh to the problem and yet uh they bear the brunt of the consequences um okay there’s a question that’s uh sort of on the issue of the marketplace and what what do you want to say about the role of carbon pricing as a solution to the climate change issue well i’ll throw in a little bit there just for a moment um so yeah what car you know carbon pricing is is trying to provide a very clean regulatory structure for pricing in externalities right and so i mean i think this is to kind of ken’s point about if you start by thinking the solution is going to be sort of simple straightforward you can use a traditional sort of regulatory method of pricing and externalities to think about it but i think the more important point actually is the one that we’ve been making about complex systems and the fact that there is not just about pricing in an externality that’s sort of straightforwardly priced there’s many kinds of interacting effects that aren’t straightforwardly captured by pricing and so consequently what you actually really need to do is rethink the structure of kinds of things that you’re prioritizing and requiring in your public investments and in the kinds of structures for engagement activity that you build for your your private commercial enterprises and that’s where it really is kind of from the ground up uh reworking of structures of the economy um that can sound revolutionary to people it’s not actually and it’s one of you know it’s sort of what human societies do when they adapt and in some sense what you have to think about is a sort of processes of adaptation and the question for me that’s really important is how do you govern that process of adaptation and again so i mean as in roderick and sable’s work there’s a really good example of dealing with issues of water pollution for irish dairy farmers that again kind of connects sort of sort of consultative processes nationally regionally locally to work out the specifics of what the regulatory structure will be because as it turns out it’s actually the farmers themselves who understand there’s sort of like six different kinds of soil that are affecting the issues of how the water runoff is is increasing or not pollution and actually nobody else has that knowledge and information so there’s this way in which you have to pull all that expertise in and so they knew things that wouldn’t have shown up in any kind of formal traditional regulatory pricing structure so the challenge is to kind of capture all the knowledge of an integrated complex system and for that you need a different governance process so it makes sense that we’ve been kind of looking to a carbon tax over time as a thing that would be useful but it’s kind of like you know generation 1.0 of a solution i would say i think it’s sort of right in spirit but it’s where we need to kind of advance our understanding of how actually to understand the full array of costs which requires a different kind of approach to regulation and then you know prioritize our choices with integrated decision making and if i can just um build on that and i think that to the direct question i mean you know there’s a reason that a carbon tax is part of a lot of proposals for things like agreement deal but there’s a reason it’s only part of it because we’ve we’ve long since left behind the days if that ever existed when uh you know nudges alone would be enough to to fix a broken system um that’s why we need to think more about how to you know transform transform the economy and and to what professor allen was saying rethink what matters um there’s a wonderful book by the economist mariana mazucato called the value of everything um and she argues that uh if you kind of look at early economic history kind of the key philosophical question is one of value what is value where does it come from how is it determined um over time though she says that we kind of left that behind we ended up kind of adopting this very uh cold model of valium which is just market price times quantity and and as such we have a philosophical misconception of what really matters um we assign worth to things which generate a price even if it’s at great cost to others be it wealth extraction from our communities or environmental destruction and we presume worthless things that cannot generate immediate prices even if they do increase overall societal wealth things like investments in long-term communal flourishing or uh investments in environmental preservation so i think that’s kind of getting at the broader question um you’re mentioning professor allen about

just the need to reconceptualize what matters um you know in in terms of uh economic policy on one hand we need better measures you know there are a number of economists who argue that gdp is just bad at measuring what’s actually important what good does it do if it keeps going up even as our planet and society get sicker but more importantly we just need to rethink this question of what is worthy what’s worth saving what’s what matters and did the economist kind of just follow up with you in who signed on to the letter have anything to say on that on that issue or what were some of the key things that they argued for absolutely but just just in case people haven’t had speed read speed read it yet indeed well first i will note that uh mariana mazucato the author of the book i was talking about was one of the signatories to our letter um but yeah the letters getting at that sort of thing the three suggestions that it has are one we need to actively phase out the fossil fuel industry it’s not enough certainly not good to keep subsidizing continued existence and not enough to just wait for the problem to fix itself um instead we should effectively phase doubt and have a um and institution should likewise follow uh by ending fossil fuel investments and funding uh the argument there is that so long as you know our our banks and our insurance companies and our uh investors continue investing in the industry it’s actively providing social and economic capital necessary for the continuation of the status quo um and that instead we should be shifting that money towards a renewable future and in doing so building political power to advocate for a fairer economic system so one of the goals of this letter one of the key points is that uh you know if we attempt to return if we attempt an economic rebuilding whose goal is return to business as usual we’ll miss the point we’ll substitute one crisis for another instead we need to recognize that uh these crises amp create and amplify societal fault lines and by uh approaching the issue from the standpoint of of justice from the standpoint of reconceptualizing uh what matters and how we value that uh we’ll actually hopefully be able to to uh bring about a more just and stable future great thank you um here’s a sort of a painful question but it is one that’s uh um comes up all the time and that is if the in how can how much progress can be made in the abdicate in the situation we currently have which is the abdication of united states international leadership uh if we have a federal government that’s actually hostile to addressing the uh climate change issue and if we continue to have that um how much progress can be made and is it is it uh in the in the words of the questioner is this is all of this hopeless as the federal government is hostile to addressing climate change anybody want to start off on that yeah i i can try i mean yes uh it’s it is unfortunate and you know our federal government obviously for the last several years has uh in my view well i think demonstrably uh actually worked to make the problem worse uh and that’s that’s it’s bad on a lot of levels and and one may be the the more important maybe the issue of international leadership which i mentioned earlier and i’ll just illustrate that uh with a story from my own experience and that was when i was working uh in the obama administration uh well in in 2013 uh i met a new colleague who was brought into the white house from academia and you know i went over to her desk and introduced myself and said you know and she told me what she her name is kelly gallagher and she’s a an academic at tufts and i think a true hero in in the fight against climate change and you know she explained to me what she was doing and it blew my mind and the story is that she was brought in to negotiate a one-on-one climate agreement with china china being the world’s biggest emitter at the time and the united states being the second biggest emitter uh and and she led nine months of secret negotiations and uh the result was actually successful and and uh you may remember that in november of 2014 about a year before paris agreement president obama and president xi stood side by side and announced their national commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and they were both very very substantive commitment and for the leaders of the two biggest submitters to

stand together and make those commitments and announce those announce those commitments together was a really galvanizing step and i think something that was essential uh in making the paris agreement successful and i can tell you that that sort of leadership really raises the bar for the other countries and and i remember at the time we were engaging also the government of india uh which it is and was the third biggest emitter and i can tell you this really got their attention uh and they they clearly felt okay we really need to step up our game as the third so that’s an example of how leadership is really important absent that i mean you know we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last four years which is work with the product and you work where the opportunities are right now there’s a lot of opportunities at the city level at the state level uh there’s opportunities in the private sector uh and and those are meaningful those are substantive they’re you’re never going to solve the problem if that’s all you have but if that’s all you have right now that’s where you got to put your energy any other thoughts on that uh from any of the other panelists i wouldn’t add one more thing i agree with everything phil just said but then on the last one of where the opportunities are that’s where i would come back to the fact that there are opportunities for democracy reform there are also at the state level it’s ballot propositions at the state level that can bring in things like ranked choice voting which brings non-incumbents into elected office more commonly it opens up space for more diversity of representation it would do a better job ultimately of giving space to the voice of young people who are advocating on these issues and whose generational size as a cohort is of such a magnitude that at the end of the day if they wanted to they could really transform our democracy institutions as well as transforming specific um issues so um there’s that to push on as well and then you get yourself a federal government that’s better equipped to channel the voice of the generation which at this point is bipartisan it’s really striking that young republicans have a very different take on climate change from older republicans i’ll just add to someone who works for the federal government and as a government employee i have no political opinions of any kind so i’m not going to talk about that but as someone who implements environmental programs we don’t we don’t spend any of our time thinking about the ideologies around climate change or do you believe it or do you not believe in it we can’t do our jobs without addressing the changes in our environment that we’re all seeing so we are still on the ground working with our states and communities addressing those issues um so i just wanted to throw that in great yeah there was a several questions about the local uh possibilities and but you you mentioned that here’s an here’s the last kind of scientific question here uh several questions from the audience about the role of nuclear power in uh in dealing with the uh climate change issue as a non-carbon source of energy um i can remember the old anti-nuclear movement and feels like it’s come a long way the situation has come a long way since then but any thoughts or comments on it well maybe as a physicist in the group i should i should be the one okay go ahead we address that and my viewpoint is not popular among my tree hugger friends i think it’s a tool in the toolkit and uh you know again i well i look at the issues and you know the issue of course is safety although i think perhaps a bigger issue which really should be cost nuclear power is very expensive uh low carbon sources of energy at this point are much much less expensive but in terms of safety i mean the reality is there’s never been a known fatality in the united states due to nuclear power and i don’t i there’s no other power source i can say that about even even the low carbon energy sources and of course fossil fuels are terribly dangerous and coal in particular produces enormous particulate pollution which has which has enormous health impacts that said i even today i mean something like five or ten thousand americans die every year from particular pollution uh due to coal that number is a lot lower than it used to be thanks to great work by ken and his colleagues at epa and by the way that number the mortality per unit coal burned in the united states is 20 times lower than it is in china and that’s a great testament to

the effectiveness of the science and the regulatory environment that we have in this country anyway my my bottom line on nuclear power yeah i think it should be it should be part of the picture a lot of countries use it a lot more than we do france i think generates 80 or 85 percent of their electricity through nuclear power anybody else on have a thought on this okay well this the uh the the scientific view is uh is the is the is the last comment on that so listen there’s an obvious question that i think you know many people have asked and always ask which is um you know what can we do what can harvard do and what can we do as citizens so um before you before i give you your last comments your last general comments that you want to make what recommendations you have for what people should be doing and what harvard should be doing connor why don’t we start with you happy to you so i think if the question is what can we do as as harvard alums or harvard students or harvard community members well a key answer is start with harvard this is obviously you know a very broad problem and there’s plenty of stuff due around the world but there’s also a lot we can do at our own institution perhaps this takes the form of uh the faculty who are doing amazing work on on fighting climate crisis and in the classroom in the lab perhaps this has to do with uh alumni um you know who are the the dha has a wonderful shared interest group on on the environment perhaps this has to do with the question of um harvard as institution i am a member of the fossil fuel divestment movement which argues that harvard should be an environmental leader through its financial decisions we argue that the uh that the the myth of value-free capitalism is just that a myth that when we subsidize continued extraction um it’s not just an economic calculus it’s a decision that that actively enables uh i think the continued economic and social capital that these industries receive um and so if it and so uh for people who are interested in uh you know the recognition that being uh declining to act in the face of injustice is not being value neutral that by engaging in large scale you know deployments in green technology renewable energy infrastructure and good clean energy jobs we can bring about more just and stable future that’s one way to get involved so there are plenty of ways to get involved but i urge members of the audience to consider the ways in which we can do that right here at harvard daniella as somebody who’s views on the practice of citizenship and civic engagement are kind of legendary what are your thoughts here in response to that question i’ve just put in the chat some of president bakau’s remarks from the decision that was announced last april about achieving carbon neutral footprint for the endowment by 2050 that i think personally i think that’s a big deal i think that was a very significant decision and so i think there’s a lot of concrete work to be done in the alumni community to ask the question quarter by quarter like literally every quarter what does that mean what are the tools endowment managers need in order to achieve this uh what tools are in development how’s that progress going on those tools i think we should be asking for a quarterly report back on that question and i think that would be very powerful so that would be the harvard question i think i’ve beaten my drum a few times on the broader question i do think that it’ll be great to see the democracy reform and climate justice movements come together um and so i would really encourage that as another way to get involved and to continue moving things forward by increasing responsiveness in our political institutions okay uh ken phil yeah i would make a specific suggestion is um to ask um people whether you’ve seen your your community’s climate action plan and do you do you know whether your community has one if you don’t you can find out we have a we’ve created a database for this new england states you can go to slash rain r-a-i-n-e and find out what your community has if there already is a plan there may be groups of people working on different aspects that you could probably join the plan may be nearing the time when it’s going to be updated you could probably volunteer to be part of that process there may be things that you want to work on and i really feel like the participatory government part of climate change is really important and so that’s something concrete you can do

okay um kind of sort of deserves to come back to you a little bit about uh the the role of activism here anything you want to say about being an activist phil did you have something you wanted to say on this i’m sorry i skipped you sure thank you um a couple thoughts on and one on you know what what can individuals do and i always frame that in terms of three things and one is is to set an example in your own lifestyle uh and i i i really believe in the importance of that not because your own personal greenhouse gas emissions are particularly significant but just because it’s important to model behaviors that you want others to emulate them and i’m old enough to remember for example when recycling was something that only the wackos did and it long has since has become uh shall we say very mainstream and that will happen with other environmental practices as well so it’s great if you can set an example and lead in that way getting involved politically is also really important and of course voting is in my view de minimis i mean there’s there’s a lot you can do on a local level you can run for office if you’re so inclined i think that’s really important and a specific thing that’s important is when you do talk to your elected representatives it’s great to let them know that climate change is an issue that determines how you vote and that really gets to the heart of of their survival instinct uh and and finally you know there’s just all kinds of ways to get them involved i mean because climate change is such a comprehensive problem that touches so many aspects there’s a way that almost anyone can use their interests and their talents to contribute to solving the problem there’s all kinds of great groups who are working on all kinds of different aspects of the problem and many of those have opportunities to get involved even if it’s nothing more than contributing money uh and and just one final thought specifically on what harvard could do i agree with everything that’s been said uh one thing i would add which i i think i didn’t hear anyone else mention is is to set an example in in in their own environmental practices and make the make the campus uh energy neutral uh or carbon neutral and maybe that’s underway i don’t know but if it’s not it ought to be i mean it’s a it’s a big big challenge but it can be done and you know if you want to talk the talk i think it’s important uh it’s important to walk to walk in maybe this isn’t fair because we’re woodwell is a much smaller organization but we’ve been energy neutral for well for a while and we we generate all our own power through uh our own uh wind and solar capability so it can be done okay all right we’ve got about just five minutes left so i think we have time to give each of our panelists a kind of last uh word i uh uh i’ll i’ll share a personal story which was my my my mother was always the last person to leave a party and my father always wanted to leave early and so he would at some point when he had had enough he would go over to my mother and would say florence make your concluding remarks so this is your opportunity to make your concluding remarks why don’t we start with uh we’ll go the opposite way from where we started we’ll start with danielle well really mine are simply to say thank you i appreciate the opportunity for this conversation i’m glad that the alumni community is so engaged in these questions and i particularly welcome the uh comp you know sort of bringing together different kinds of expertise in this conversation i think that ability for us to partner across different areas of expertise is really fundamental to forward movement here and hasn’t always characterized efforts um in the climate change space okay great uh connor absolutely i’d like to echo that just so grateful for all the the panelists and to the aj for for putting this together um and i guess i’d just like to say it is as scary as this is it is not too late there are vested interests that stand to benefit if we give up hope if we take climate crisis as a given um it is true that the longer you wait the more narrow our options become uh the more unpleasant the path becomes and it’s true that these are tough questions how do we balance need to have overarching solutions with the need to listen to the individual communities in the front lines how do we ban it how do we balance the the these different versus pulling in different directions and that’s why i think it’s so exciting right now to see the upwelling of activism around the world seeking to bring together these concerns these scientific concerns these political concerns these moral concerns um and chin not just in in anger at a broken system but in constructing an affirmative vision

for what a just and stable future can look like i think that’s what makes this such a an exciting moment as much as as much as this is a scary moment and we’ll see where this leads thanks connor ken i really appreciated the moments in this conversation when we’ve touched on the importance of values and one of the reasons for that is because i think we’ve all observed ideology is a really unwelcome guest at this party it really has made things difficult and the way we kind of usher it maybe towards the door is to replace it with discussions about values because regardless of people’s politics there are things about their communities that they want to protect and that’s what the discussion needs to be about great uh phil we come back you have the first word you get the last well well thank you and i i’ll just end on well i hope this isn’t a downer but i mean our future really is uh at stake and as conor said uh as we wait and don’t act uh the options for what our future looks like get narrower and narrower and the decisions that we make today whether by actively deciding or simply doing nothing uh have profound consequences for uh for future generations uh the past is simply not going to look like the present and that’s that’s a tough thing uh to swallow uh but that’s a reality and i guess i’ll close by saying that i you know there are some lessons we can take uh from from the the covet from the present pandemic and and one of those lessons is that it’s important uh to recognize the threat uh and and and be honest about what it is uh that we’re facing and what it is that we’re dealing with and and in addition recognize the threat and have a comprehensive plan uh for dealing with it uh and that plan should be as we’ve seen from covert that plan should be based on on or should include should involve science-based policies and if i think covet has provided us with a very very vivid demonstration by looking across nations we can see that policies based on science work uh policies based on wishful thinking simply don’t work they they collide with physical reality and this the same thing will happen on climate change if we don’t have policies based on on the real facts on the ground listen i want to thank all of the panelists very very much this was a great discussion from my point of view and i want to especially thank uh valerie and terry connolly for kind of moving this agenda as as citizens as grassroots citizens actually and lastly i just want to say that please remember that the next event in the series the third event uh is changing hearts and minds on climate change uh you know all of the all of how we can do that and that will take place on november 18th all right so thanks to everybody thanks to the participants uh thanks to the audience really really appreciate it thank you very much