Waxman, Pavley and others link security and climate at UCLA forum
Politicians and scientists gather at UCLA to discuss the effects of climate change and role that public policy will have in finding a solution.
"We cannot drill our way to sustained economic security. America must take decisive action and move away from a fossil fuel based economy for national security reasons"
By Alison Hewitt
Originally published in UCLA Newsroom
Environmental experts, from professors doing the research to elected officials shaping the policies, convened at UCLA today for a forum tackling climate change, including the link between saving the environment and shoring up national security.
"We've got to do something about our national security when we are so dependent on foreign sources of energy, particularly oil," said U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, who co-hosted the event with California state Sen. Fran Pavley. Waxman co-authored HR 2454, a bill making its way through Congress that would enact nationally many of the greenhouse gas emission-reduction requirements already adopted by California. Both Waxman's and Pavley's districts include UCLA.
"The whole world is depending on what the U.S. does," said Pavley, who authored the California bill that inspired many features of the federal bill. "The dependence on foreign oil, the ability for some countries to hold our country hostage, economically speaking, is going in the wrong direction."
Four hundred people filled UCLA's Korn Hall at the Anderson School of Management for the fully booked, registration-only conference, while an unusual mix of about a hundred climate change and health care demonstrators gathered outside.
Ret. Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn noted that the U.S. uses 25 percent of oil consumed annually worldwide but can produce at most only 3 percent of it.
"We cannot drill our way to sustained economic security," he said, and described his work serving with military leaders on a military advisory board. "As experienced military leaders, our conclusion is that America must take decisive action and move away from a fossil fuel–based economy for national security reasons."
Climate change is already causing increased fires, floods and droughts, destabilizing entire regions, he said. If the U.S. fails to act, McGinn continued, climate change will create bigger disasters than traditional military threats and cause desperation that will likely lead to more extremism around the world.
"Destabilization driven by climate change … will lead to an increase in conflicts," McGinn said. "[It] will place an unavoidable and unacceptable burden on our young men and women in uniform."
Speakers at the forum also explored the similarities between Pavley's climate change bill that passed in California, AB 32, and Waxman's federal bill and talked about the urgent need to pass federal legislation.
"The science tells us, if we're going to make meaningful progress on this problem, we have to do it now and we have to do it quickly," said Cara Horowitz, executive director of the UCLA School of Law's Emmet Center on Climate Change and the Environment.
Several of the speakers expressed frustration at delays in taking action.
"We had a president who censored the research that his scientists were doing on global warming," Waxman said. "He and his political people denied there was global warming. We had eight years of inactivity rather than leadership."
Climate change scholar and Stanford University professor Stephen Schneider, who has advised seven presidents on climate change, warned that the world is approaching a tipping point where feedback loops will begin to make global warming faster and more difficult to reverse.
"We have to make up for the last 30 years of inaction," Schneider said. "When I start hearing this nonsense that 'my home is my castle, don't tell me what building codes I'm supposed to have and don't control my tailpipe emissions' when you're sending my neighbor's kid to the hospital [with asthma], I think you have an obligation to be regulated, and that's exactly what we have to do in a democracy, is find that balance between private rights and public protection."
California has proven that regulation can work, said Bob Epstein, vice chair of the AB 32 Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee.
"Our energy bills are 56 percent lower than the state of Texas', even though our energy cost per kilowatt-hour is slightly higher," Epstein said. "We just get the same work done for a fraction of the kilowatt-hours. That means … $56 billion, instead of going into fossil fuels, has gone into other parts of the California economy, creating 1.5 million jobs."
UCLA's role in climate change is, of course, in research and education, said UCLA professor Glen MacDonald, director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment.
"Policymakers and leaders need be informed about the science almost in real time," MacDonald said. To support that, new research centers focusing on climate change are forming every year at UCLA, and the environmental studies major is the fastest growing major on campus, he said. "It really is the students we're educating today who will see us through this crisis."
To watch a video of the forum, click here.
Published: Sunday, August 30, 2009