A draft of the National Climate Assessment Report took center stage Monday in a public comment forum focusing on climate change and its impact on issues ranging from water supplies to rising sea levels.
The forum, hosted by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the USC Schwarzenegger Institute in partnership with the USC Center for Sustainable Cities, brought together some of the nation’s most prominent scientists and local leaders to discuss the effects of climate change. The forum’s goal was to not only raise awareness about the NCAR, but also to elevate the discussion beyond the paper and into the lives and minds of policymakers, opinion leaders and constituents.
During the opening remarks, Schwarzenegger stressed the importance of listening to the voices of our nation’s experts on the pivotal issue of climate change, likening their diagnosis to the opinions one would receive from a doctor after a yearly physical.
“If we are smart, we listen to our doctors, and if we are stupid, we ignore our doctors and it takes a heart attack to realize that we should listen,” Schwarzenegger said. “The National Climate Assessment Report is our physical and these scientists can give us a prescription for what we need to do to improve our climate. It is our duty to listen to them and encourage action — action all over the country.”
Hilda Blanco, interim director of the Center for Sustainable Cities and professor at the Price School, reached out to the Price School following the release of a draft of the NCAR and asked them to hold a public comment session to draw more attention to the report before the period for public comment expires on April 12.
The panel of experts featured a variety of scientists who discussed the staggering impact of climate change on the Southwestern region of the United States. The primary topics covered included melting sea ice, increasing wildfires, declining water supply, increasing risk of health problems and threats to coastal populations in the form of floods and erosion.
Following a presentation by each scientist, the floor was opened to public comments from a variety of stakeholders who shared their strategies for both adapting to and altering the impacts of climate change. Strategies shared included influencing policymakers, increasing public partcipation, building more energy-efficient homes and better managing of shared resources such as water.
Axel Hellman, a freshman majoring in policy, planning and development, said it was inspiring to see important figures in the political and scientific community reach out to the public.
“It was good to see Governor Schwarzenegger speak, and the scientists had very important things to say about getting the public to pay attention to [climate change],” Hellman said. “I’m very glad that this sort of event is happening to address that challenge.”
Pablo Mondal, a doctorate student studying management and organization, said the data presented was powerful motivation for action.
“The more focus you have on the data, the better,” Mondal said. “The most helpful part is when the scientists talk about specific applications, so that the issue seems real.”
Following the event, Schwarzenegger sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to listen to the findings presented at the public forum comment and take action.
“It is more than clear that the science is in, the debate is over and the time for bold action is now,” Schwarzenegger said. “This report is our wake-up call — please consider its message and find a path forward.”
Schwarzenegger will be returning to the university on April 30 to host a bipartisan immigration reform forum.