Watch: Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Lindsey Graham discuss bipartisanship at Harvard climate change policy forum

Politics

“There is a lot that we can agree on, and we need to stop arguing and start getting things done.”

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health held a forum Tuesday to discuss the solutions that can lead to a better bipartisan agreement on climate change policies. The forum addressed a study conducted by researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Deliberative Democracy and hosted two senators, who are members of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, as guest speakers.

The forum comes ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which will begin Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland. World leaders will gather to discuss the issue of climate change and put together policies that will help accelerate action to tackle issues in collaboration with governments, businesses, and civil society.

The study presented in the forum was part of the America in One Room project, but with a particular focus on climate and energy. It was conducted by researchers Jim Fishkin and Larry Diamond and looked at creating a bridge between the partisan divide in the U.S. political scene as it relates to climate change solutions. Participants were asked 72 questions related to climate and energy before and after discussion sessions that took course over several weeks.

Researchers found that opinions on 68 of the 72 questions asked changed through these deliberations. Opinions of those who identified as a member of the Republican Party significantly changed, and the number of Republican participants who believed in the science of climate change jumped from 35% to 55% following the discussions.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire andRepublican Sen. Lindsey Graham of North Carolina, who were guest speakers at the forum, also echoed the importance of bipartisanship in creating policies on climate change. The two are part of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, which includes both members of the Democratic and Republican parties, and aims to create policies that provide solutions to the climate change issue from a bipartisan lens.

“There is a lot that we can agree on, and we need to stop arguing and start getting things done,” Shaheen said.

Graham emphasized the need for the Republican Party to change their views on climate change in order to appeal more to the younger generation of voters. In the 2024 presidential election, he said he hopes to see a Republican nominee that believes in climate change and may even be climate change-focused.

“What I tell Republicans is that young people are more environmentally sensitive, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “If you want to be a relevant, viable party in the 21st century, you need to have an alternative to the Green New Deal, not deny the existence of climate change.”

The Green New Deal, a climate change platform championed by many members of the left, including its co-creators, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, has not been accepted at all by the GOP. Shaheen said it may be time to move on from the GND and focus on creating bills that would pass by having bipartisan support and creating solutions that both parties would be in favor of.

Shaheen said one of the big challenges that the general public faces today in understanding climate change and the bills that are trying to be passed is having access to accurate and correct information. During the study, one of the biggest reasons that participants changed their mind on opinions about climate change and certain issues was because of the abundance of information they were given, including access to experts, reading materials, and what changes were being presented in government.

“As we talk about the changes we need to make to respond to climate change, we’ve got to help make sure that the public comes along with us,” she said. “So we’ve got to explain what we’re doing, we’ve got to make sure … that those people who can least afford this transition are not adversely affected in a way that means that they are not supportive. And that takes some time.”

Watch the forum below:

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