Tom Brokaw Moderates
Climate Change Discussion

Making the economy more energy efficient and weaning it off fossil fuels will make it more competitive, according to a panel of experts at a January town hall event on climate change moderated by former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw in Kroon Hall.

Linda Fisher, a panelist and Dupont’s chief sustainability officer, said that her company has decreased its energy use by 19 percent and increased its revenues by 40 percent since 1990, saving $3 billion to $4 billion in the process. Dupont, she said, views climate change as an opportunity to invest in new ideas and technologies.


© Michael Marsland
Tom Brokaw

“Either we are going to create the technologies and the jobs in America or the technologies and the jobs will be created elsewhere,” she said.

Fisher was one of four panelists who discussed climate change’s impact on economic opportunity and competitiveness, human health, youth and moral and religious values at the NBC News town hall event, “Changing Planet: The Impact on Lives and Values.”

“Today’s youth are interested and engaged in trying to understand climate change and its impact on our world,” Brokaw said. “It is important that we involve them in finding solutions through events like this.”

When one Yale senior asked the panel how to promote sustainability in the face of the current economic recession, the panelists pointed out the costs that will be incurred if America doesn’t take action against climate change, noting that the country spends $5 billion every week importing oil and that the revenue generated from putting a price on carbon, for instance, could help fund research into more sustainable forms of energy.

The other panelists were Rajendra Pachauri, director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute and a Nobel Prize laureate; Billy Parish, founder and coordinator of the youth-oriented Energy Action Coalition; and Katherine Hayhoe, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech University and an expert on the intersection between Christian fundamentalism and climate change.

From one NBC News segment that was aired during the event, the audience learned about the effects of climate change on other parts of the world and how a warmer, wetter world is already leading to more infectious-disease outbreaks. Cases of dengue fever, for instance, have recently been reported in parts of the world like Australia and even Florida, which hadn’t seen any cases of the mosquito-borne disease for 75 years.

While Pachauri stressed that the poorest countries in the world are being hardest hit by the effects of climate change—increased flooding, drought, heat waves and vanishing agricultural lands—Parish emphasized that climate change is going to have a major effect on Americans as well. “Almost every aspect of our economy is going to have to be redesigned, rethought and rebuilt,” he said.

“Today’s youth are interested and engaged in trying to understand climate change and its impact on our world.” -- Tom Brokaw

The audience was composed of Yale undergraduates and high school students from New Haven public schools. Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication at F&ES, and a team of researchers surveyed the audience before and after the event to gauge young people’s attitudes toward climate change.

The program, which was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Discover magazine and Yale, aired on the Weather Channel on Earth Day in April.

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