Climate Change from Two Different Sides: Miami’s Fall JANUS Forum

By: Aidan Das

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, The JANUS Forum at Miami University hosted a discussion between former Democratic Senator, Barbara Boxer, and former Republican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, in Armstrong’s Wilks Theater. The discussion was titled “The Trump Presidency: Successes and Failures.” Many political issues were brought up in the forum, such as trade, immigration, gun control, foreign policy and environmental issues.

Before the forum, each guest sat down with a group of students in a seminar to answer questions in a more intimate setting. In Senator Boxer’s seminar, she provided background information on herself and her time as a senator. Boxer is originally from New York and went to school at Brooklyn College. After college, she went to work on Wall Street as a stockbroker.

Boxer eventually moved to California with her husband where she began her political career as a chairwoman on the Marin County Board of Supervisors. She then went on to be a U.S. House Representative of California for five terms and then served as a Senator for 24 years. Overall, she served under five different presidencies from President Ronald Reagan through President Barack Obama. 

A recurring theme in Boxer’s remarks was the importance of teamwork when working in the legislative branch, along with the importance of respecting colleagues when their viewpoints didn’t match. This type of dynamic was perfectly epitomized in the conversation between Senator Boxer and Governor Walker, where lively debate was on full display. Each guest gave strong and usually differing opinions as to how they viewed the progression of the Trump presidency. One thing the two seemed to agree on was that climate change is real, something Boxer doubts President Donald Trump believes.

In addition, Boxer remarked that she thinks combating climate change is one of the areas in which her generation has failed. As chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee from 2007 to 2015, she worked hard to try and pass what she called a “carbon tax” bill, where companies would have to pay for the amount of greenhouse gases they generate. She stressed that this type of action as essential in reducing the amount of pollutants released into the air. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass.

As for Governor Walker’s perspective, he agreed that something needs to be done about climate change, but he was also concerned about how taking action could affect the economy. He mentioned that places like Ohio and Michigan rely heavily on manufacturing jobs that could be put at risk if more environmental and emissions restrictions are placed on these companies. Another one of Walker’s concerns was that even if the United States reduced its emissions, nations like China would still be creating a tremendous amount of pollution.

From there, the speakers shifted the discussion from legislative environmental reform to environmental innovation. Senator Boxer went on to discuss how corporations are beginning to see that climate change is a major issue, which has led companies and consumers to embrace things such as solar panels, electric cars and energy efficient homes. She also pointed out that these industries can benefit the economy by creating new jobs. Governor Walker mentioned how he has seen environmentally conscious decisions save money in the utilities sector in Wisconsin. In regards to public health, both Boxer and Walker agreed that clean air can have tremendous health benefits, such as reduced asthma and cancer.

Although there were many opposing viewpoints between Senator Boxer and Governor Walker on the various issues brought up in the forum, it was refreshing to see that in some cases a middle ground could be found. Discussions like these that The JANUS Forum hosts each semester are important in creating a space where polarization is confronted through encouraging both sides to listen to what the other has to say. This type of cooperation can hopefully help us to move forward in creating policies that will affect the environment positively as well.

Cover photo courtesy of Aidan Das

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