Courtesy of UCR Today
Courtesy of UCR Today

On Oct. 29 the UCR School of Public Policy (SPP) and the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development hosted a Climate Change Panel seminar at the UCR Extension Center.

The seminar featured speakers Dean Bonner, associate survey director at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), Penny Newman, executive director at the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Brinda Sarathy, director at the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability and professor in the environmental studies department at Pitzer College and Juliann Allison, associate director at the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development.

Professor and Associate Dean at the UCR SPP Karthick Ramakrishnan, served as the moderator for the speeches given by each of the panelists and questions asked by the audience regarding the major environmental concerns in California.

Donner discussed the findings of the most recent PPIC’s Statewide Survey after interviewing over 1,700 Californians. This survey has been conducted on an annual basis during the summer and attempts to measure particular perceptions of global warming, as well as how the state plans to deal with climate change policy.

Divisions have been found within racial and ethnic, and political and socioeconomic groups. Within political parties, Democrats are twice as likely to believe that global warming is a serious problem within the state than Republicans. “We find that majorities of Latinos, African-Americans and Asians, as well as those with incomes under 40,000 per year, perceive this threat as very serious, while fewer than half of Whites and those with higher incomes hold this view.”

Emphasis in this presentation was also placed on water policy regarding the drought and the issue of air pollution. California has moved toward becoming a leader in the climate change movement by making pacts with Canada and other states in the U.S. said Donner.

Next, Newman spoke about who experiences the most effects of climate change and who is more concerned about altering climate change policies. “I think that for a lot of our communities there’s an interconnection between the lifestyle people have, the conditions in which they live and the issues that surround them like environment,” Newman elucidated.

She sees climate change as specific to certain neighborhoods, such as those located near fossil fuel resource extraction sites, that see the effects through health problems and are exacerbate by the lack of healthcare, as well as temperature changes in which they do not have the money to pay for heating and air conditioning. Newman ended her short speech by advocating for the end of our reliance on fossil fuels despite how heavily embedded it is in our society, and instead turning to renewable energy that work toward ending climate change.

Sarathy brought forth the use of divestment in fossil fuel stocks by universities to create greener, more environmentally campuses. “Through divestment, institutions are urged to make a moral and political statement about the fossil fuel industry.” She views the fossil fuel industry as an unworthy investment that is incompatible with the recommendations of the climate scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Many college campuses have attempted to reduce their carbon footprint through means such as solar panels but Sarathy says that that is not enough. She believes that Pitzer College has proven that divestment can be successfully achieved and that other universities should follow suit.

Lastly, Allison talked about the role California has in climate change policy influence and environmental justice. “California has been a model not just for the United States. The policies that we’ve put in place since the 1960s has moved across the nation and even influenced federal policy, and then turned around and influenced international policy.”

Allison urged the need for climate change mainstreaming and for help to be directed toward those who may not have the money or resources to contribute to this movement. One example used was having free bus fare for those who may not have the money to pay for it.

The climate panel ended with a Q-and-A session.