Kinzinger, Demings and More find Common Ground on Climate Policy

Former congress members and notable climate experts Gina McCarthy and Bret Stephens found a path forward for climate policy and bipartisan conversation

Sherman, CT, April 7, 2023 – This week Common Ground Committee (CGC), a nonpartisan, citizen-led nonprofit dedicated to reducing polarization, held two panel discussions in collaboration with the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future and the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at their annual Climate Forward Conference. The event brought together former congress members Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Val Demings (D-Fla.) for “Finding Common Ground on the Politics of Climate,” and Gina McCarthy, former EPA Administrator, and Bret Stephens, The New York Times opinion columnist and editor-in-chief of Sapir, “Finding Common Ground in Climate Conversations”. The first panel was moderated Robert Shrum, director of the Center for the Political Future, and the second by Joe Árvai, director of USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies

Specific points of common ground found between former congress members Kinzinger and Demings include:

  • Nuclear energy is essential to the future of our country and the government must play a role in helping to make it cheaper.
  • Climate change is a global issue and must be addressed with the support of the entire global community.
  • The fossil fuel industry continues to have an impact on policy, but the biggest issue is “political oligarchs” who can spend their way to victory over candidates who better have their constituents interests in mind.

Specific points of common ground found between McCarthy and Stephens include:

  • Part of the problem with climate messaging is it is framed too simply. We need to acknowledge the complexity of these issues and convince people that we have an opportunity for a more abundant future than previous generations.
  • There can and should be an interplay between government and markets as it relates to climate change.
  • The only way you have this conversation fruitfully is for all voices to be represented at the table.

“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and we cannot afford to let partisanship prevent us from finding solutions,” said Bruce Bond, Co-Founder and CEO of Common Ground Committee. “Yesterday’s discussions highlighted the importance of productive conversation and finding common ground to pragmatically protect our planet for future generations to come.”

“I have been heartened over the last few years, particularly in my party, that you can do something on climate change and survive politically,” said Congressman Kinzinger, “The problem is neither side wants to talk about where we can agree on these issues.”

“We have to ask ourselves about the cost of doing nothing,” said Congresswoman Demings, “When I think about our communities I believe, and I think Adam and I would both agree on this, that every community, regardless of who they are, the color of their skin or how much money they have, what zip code they live in, deserves to live in a community where they have clean air and water that’s affordable –That is the common ground where we can agree.”

“The challenge I try to overcome is the way science talks is so foreign to the way people want to hear things,” said McCarthy. “I have a hard time exciting people by telling them they’re going to die any moment if they don’t do this. We have to excite people and we can do that by telling them, yes, we are in a tough situation but we have a way out of it.”

“When having climate conversations, it’s important to remember that this person is not necessarily your enemy and that this person might be coming from an honest place of doubt,” said Stephens. “When you think this way, you’re likely to have a productive conversation.” This was CGC’s first in-person event of 2023, and 20th overall, following a previous conversation at USC about the 2022 midterms with James Carville and Reince Priebus.

For interview requests, please contact Zach Halper at or 862-224-3233


About 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.