Unruh hosts panel on President Donald Trump’s environmental policies

“We could not have picked a more appropriate day,” co-moderator Bob Shrum said about President Donald Trump’s Tuesday executive order that rolled back many of the Obama administration’s’ environmental policies.

The Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and the Environmental Student Assembly co-hosted “CA vs USA: How CA is Mobilizing to Protect its Climate Agenda.”

The Tuesday night panel about California’s climate change agenda in a Trump era included Sarah Feakins, an associate professor of earth science and previous post-doctoral fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Steve Lamy, vice dean for academic programs at Dornsife College and a professor of international relations; Margita Thompson, vice president of communications at the California Resources Corporation; and Dave Quast, senior vice president of Strategic Communications at FTI Consulting and an adjunct professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Caden Cerveris, a sophomore studying public policy and director of sustainability leadership for the Environmental Student Assembly, served as the co-moderator of the panel. Cerveris said was pleased with the discussion that occurred.

“It focused more heavily on Trump’s impact on the climate,” Cerveris said. “I thought that it would be energy policy focused, but it took a much more social leaning of how Trump will impact how other countries react and the social ramifications.”

One such example of social impact of climate policy came from Thompson, who discussed the implications of California’s policies on the state economics.

“We have California legislatures who are making an effort to increase the cost of energy because they want to make it so we are doing as much as can be done,” Thompson said. “We’ve set up this goal, and we’ve got an unelected body, the Air Resources Board, and they can’t say what policies are working or how much they cost or what the economic impact of those policies is or the job loss. That’s a problem.”

Oliver Kashyap, a sophomore studying biochemistry, thought that economic decisions need to be made in conjunction with environmental and health considerations.

“I think that quality of life is really relevant when we’re looking at these economic decisions,” Kashyap said. “A lot of the lower-paying coal jobs that people talk about as being good jobs are well-paying, but they have a really low quality of life.”

Feakins ended the panel by discussing environmental steps that can be taken, regardless of the administration.

“I think reducing our meat consumption is a big thing that we can do,” Feakins said. “We can do these things ourselves, but it that enough? I do what I can, I try to think about what I can do, I spend my time researching the climate system and educating people about the basics about the climate system and what we know so that would maybe inform policy.”

Nathalia Ramos, a senior majoring in political science, left the panel thinking about what steps to take next.

“I always leave these things with more questions than answers, and I think that we’re going in the right direction,” Ramos said. “There needs to be a way to take this really complex issue and market it and sell it to the broader public.”