By Andrea Klick, student reporter
Price professor Daniel Mazmanian has witnessed the gap between climate change research and active mitigation solutions for decades. Even today, as researchers share the worsening impacts of climate change, many corporations and policymakers continue business as usual – with little communication between scientists and politicians.
However, as climate change becomes a more mainstream topic, Mazmanian, who researches environmental policy implementation, is seeing these key stakeholder groups step up to make a difference. He recently joined the L.A. Business Council Sustainability Summit as the moderator between USC President Carol Folt and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, where each speaker talked about their commitment to sustainability in the city.
The summit is important because it works toward joint solutions. In his research on implementation of environmental policies, Mazmanian has found that every group plays an important role — elected leaders like Garcetti can implement plans like the Green New Deal in the city, local business leaders must determine how they’ll reach these goals, and major universities like USC can invest money in further research on climate change and solutions.
“We’re part of a really national, global initiative, but you have to walk the talk, they say, and both the mayor and [President Folt] are,” Mazmanian said. “We need to walk the talk, and we need to do it together. That inspires even those of us who have watched this for a long time and wish it was moving faster to say, ‘but you do have to start somewhere.’”
These critical changes are coming at a time when climate change is a divisive political issue. While it is possible to imagine a new, carbon neutral economy that has job opportunities, some politicians argue that the U.S. should continue business as usual to maintain our current way of life.
“[America is] struggling with some real challenges that are not just the difficulty of moving locally, but the difficulty of moving in a political arena where there’s enormous pushback and denial,” he said. “That’s just the reality of making some change today.”
But Mazmanian said that Los Angeles is making positive steps forward. For example, many L.A. businesses have started implementing solar panels to reduce energy consumption; and the University has assembled researchers to analyze and find trees for Garcetti’s green canopy plan, to help cool the city by planting more trees. Mazmanian has also seen changes globally, as electric vehicles that reduce carbon consumption grow in popularity and better mass transit programs in different cities to incentivize carpools and public transportation use.
At USC, Mazmanian will continue to be a critical part of the school’s environmental initiatives in his role as chair of the President’s Working Group on Sustainable Education, Research and Operations. There, he recommends sustainable practices that could be implemented throughout the University. He said President Folt has made sustainability a major priority within the first year of her presidency, and students, faculty, staff, alumni, businesses and local leaders have all responded positively.
Mazmanian said, “I’m impressed by the outpouring of not only goodwill, but the good ideas and actions that are being taken.”
Professor of Public Policy