Climate Forward Conference 2023: Bridging Divides, Sharing Solutions

Tuesday, April 4, 2023, 12:45 – 4:30 pm PT
University of Southern California, Town and Gown

Can we find realistic solutions to climate change? Watch our discussions with former policymakers Val Demings & Adam Kinzinger, and thought leaders Gina McCarthy & Bret Stephens.

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Climate change is becoming an increasingly important issue to voters of all backgrounds. But can we agree on the politics of how to tackle one of the most pressing issues of our time? On April 4, 2023, Common Ground Committee hosted an afternoon of conversation between some of today’s most knowledgeable legislative experts and thought leaders in the climate field.

Our first panel conversation, Finding Common Ground on the Politics of Climate, featured a discussion between former U.S. Representatives Val Demings (D-FL) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who brought two different viewpoints to navigating the policy tightrope between transition, sustainability and equity. The conversation was moderated by legendary political strategist and journalist Bob Shrum, Director of the Dornsife Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California. Watch the video now. 

Our second panel, Finding Common Ground in Climate Conversations, brought together Gina McCarthy, former EPA Administrator and White House National Climate Advisor in the first two years of the Biden administration, with New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, a conservative whose views on climate change evolved after a trip to Greenland in 2022. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Joe Árvai, Director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California. Watch the video now. 

Common Ground Committee was honored to collaborate with the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and Dornsife Center for the Political Future to present the Climate Forward 2023 conference as part of the National Week of Conversation, which invites Americans to find their place in community with people willing to talk across their differences to solve important problems.

WATCH: Finding Common Ground on the Politics of Climate

WATCH: Finding Common Ground in Climate Conversations

Featured Speakers

Val Demings

Val Demings is a lifelong public servant who broke numerous glass ceilings in her rise through the Orlando Police Department to become the city’s first female Chief of Police, her election to Congress, her appointment to prosecute the (first) impeachment of former president Donald Trump, her campaign for Senate in Florida, and her consideration as potential running mate to President Joe Biden. Ms. Demings rose from humble beginnings to become the first in her family to go to college, earning a B.S. in Criminology and a Master’s in Public Administration from Florida State University. As the U.S. representative from Florida’s 10th congressional district from 2017 to 2023 – serving a region where climate changes are of critical concern – she received a 97% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

Adam Kinzinger

From 2011-2022, Congressman Adam Kinzinger served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Illinois’ 16th Congressional District, He served as a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he served as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment. He also served on the non-partisan Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. His top priorities included strengthening energy policy and making our nation less reliant on foreign resources. Prior to being elected to Congress, Kinzinger served in the Air Force. He continues to serve as a Lt. Colonel in the Air National Guard.

Bob Shrum

Robert Shrum is the Director of the Center for the Political Future and the Carmen H. and Louis Warschaw Chair in Practical Politics at USC Dornsife. A legendary political strategist, he was once described as “the most sought-after consultant in the Democratic Party,” by The Atlantic Monthly. A speechwriter for multiple presidential campaigns, he was the strategist in over 25 winning U.S. Senate campaigns as well as numerous campaigns for Congress and statewide offices. A graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, Shrum is an author, journalist and television writer. In 2015, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Political Consultants and was inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Gina McCarthy

The first-ever White House National Climate Advisor and former EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy is one of the nation’s most respected voices on climate change, the environment, and public health. As head of the Climate Policy Office under President Biden, she led the most aggressive action on climate in U.S. history, creating new jobs and unprecedented clean energy innovation and investments; restoring U.S. climate leadership on a global stage; and putting a new national target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 within reach. Previously, she served as President & CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens is editor-in-chief of Sapir and an opinion columnist for The New York Times. A former skeptic on climate change, his views evolved after being invited on a trip to Greenland by oceanographer John Englander. Mr. Stephens, who previously worked as foreign-affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal and editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, is a co-founder of the Renew Democracy Initiative, an organization dedicated to strengthening liberal democracy. He is the recipient of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, the 2019 Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and three honorary doctorates. Mr. Stephens is a graduate with honors from the University of Chicago and holds an MSc from the London School of Economics.

Joe Árvai

Dr. Joe Árvai is the Dana and David Dornsife Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology, and Director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at USC. His research focuses on improving our understanding of how people intuitively make judgments and decisions about, primarily, environmental issues and sustainability; and developing and testing tools and approaches to help people improve decision quality across a range of environmental, social, and economic contexts. Joe is a frequent advisor to government, business, and NGOs; and a former member of the EPA’s Chartered Science Advisory Board, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Environmental Change and Society.

Presented by

Common Ground Committee

Common Ground Committee (CGC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) citizen-led organization dedicated to bringing healing to the national challenges of polarization and unhealthy political discourse. Since its founding in 2009, CGC has held 20 public forums featuring panelists who have reached over 250 points of consensus. Panelists have included such notable pairings as John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice, Chris Murphy and Will Hurd, David Petraeus and Susan Rice, Michael Steele and Donna Brazile, Chris Wallace and Maggie Haberman, and Larry Kudlow and Barney Frank, exploring issues ranging from race and income inequality to foreign policy. CGC produces the Let’s Find Common Ground podcast series, which has had over 330,000 downloads and over 160,000 subscribers. CGC also created the Common Ground Scorecard, a voting tool that scores politicians and candidates for public office on their likelihood to find common ground with the opposite party. Free of political agenda and financial influence, CGC has a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.

National Week of Conversation

The 6th annual National Week of Conversation invites Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs to find their place in community with people willing to talk across their differences to solve important problems. Each year, hundreds of organizations provide resources and host events that speak to how conversations can move us forward in education, our local communities, and even in our politics. By discovering common interests, solving problems, and raising our voices together, let’s work to defeat toxic polarization and heal America by transforming division and contempt into connection and understanding. Learn more.

USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies

Founded in 1995 and based on USC’s Los Angeles campus and Catalina Island, the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies educates students, conducts public-facing and policy-facing outreach, and produces solutions-focused research at the intersection of people and the planet. Its mission is to inspire global environmental solutions through frontier education and research. Learn more.

USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future

The University of Southern California’s Dornsife Center for the Political Future (CPF) combines rigorous intellectual inquiry, teaching, and practical politics to advance civil dialogue and research that transcends partisan divisions and finds solutions to pressing national and global challenges. Its events, programs, scholarships, and internships inspire and train students for careers in public service and lifetimes of civic engagement. Learn more.