An upcoming CU Boulder event brings speakers from diverse backgrounds in the hopes of discussing the most polarizing issue of our time.
Climate change is a politically decisive issue that divides the public—but it wasn’t always that way. And an event at the University of Colorado Boulder hopes to provide some semblance of relief.
The event, a panel discussion titled “Why are we stuck on dealing with climate change and how do we get ‘unstuck,’” features speakers from various backgrounds and across the political aisle in the hopes of offering insight into why the United States is so gridlocked and what steps might be taken to get past those barriers.
The discussion is hosted by the Center of the American West and will be held Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the CASE Auditorium on campus.
“In a time of polarization and division on innumerable issues, our nation's inability to convene productive conversations on climate change can seem to be locked in place. But for more a quarter century, the Center of the American West has refused a sense of defeat and inevitability,” said Patty Limerick, the center’s faculty director and a professor of history.
“The timing seems right for us to host an evening with a group of speakers characterized by their good will and civic engagement.”
Since 2000, concern over climate change has become more polarized, with Democrats increasingly worrying “a great deal” while Republicans are worrying less and less, according to a 2017 Gallup Poll. And that divide has only grown, according to a recent Yale University study, which found that the issue is now even more polarizing than abortion or gun rights.
This political polarization has made discussion almost impossible between the two parties. But, by bringing speakers together from across the aisle with a diversity of experiences, the Center of the American West hopes this event can unstick the dialogue, even if just a little.
“I am certain that we are assembling the right cast of characters to make real progress,” said Limerick.
The cast includes:
For each speaker, the event represents something a little different, but they all agree: This is an issue we need to solve.
For some of the speakers, it involves figuring out how we got here.
“America faces a great challenge in climate change, and we will not be able to confront it adequately if we do not recall our shared sense of purpose as Americans,” said Palken.
“Rather than letting the conversation around climate and energy fall prey to the polarization that paralyzes so much in our country, it is important that Republicans and Democrats alike make a conscious effort to extend real dialogue across political lines.”
Van Boven agrees: “The event will provide a forum to understand why we are polarized over climate policy—and how we can overcome that polarization. The panel is an important opportunity for liberals and conservatives to discuss policy solutions to climate change, to identify areas of common ground, and to respectfully acknowledge areas of disagreement.”
For others, this event represents a look to the future.
"It is my intention that this event inform, inspire and mobilize those in attendance to be part of the solution, as opposed to concerned observers,” said Schneider.
Either way, the speakers are thankful for the Center of the American West for hosting the event and bringing them together.
“Getting unstuck on climate progress requires new approaches and novel participants—solutions we haven’t imagined yet,” said Schuller. “I love how the center creates the opportunity for that magic to happen, and I expect it will.”
The event is free and open to the public, but advance tickets are required and are available on Eventbrite.