“This is a difficult time for liberals and conservatives alike. People are stressed –– and the climate issue is one that has been ignored for a long time,” Jack Lohmann ’19 said. Lohmann is a co-founder of the Princeton Student Climate Lobby (PSCL), a PACE Center group that was created in January.
PSCL is a campus climate change advocacy group working in collaboration with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), the national chapter organization and a force for climate change activism.
“We’re interested in providing an outlet for students to learn about, engage with, and have a positive impact on climate change,” Jonathan Lu ’18, another co-founder of PSCL, said. According to Lu, the group’s inception arose from a need to address current issues surrounding just how institutions and lawmakers are handling climate change, as well as a marked lack of discussion at the time within campus itself.
PSCL arose in an environment where climate science is under debate within the federal government. President Donald Trump's pick of Rick Perry for secretary of the Department of Energy was confirmed as well as his pick for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt on Feb. 2. Perry has previously recommended getting rid of the DOE, though he regrets this now, and Pruitt was boycotted by Senate Democrats over worries about his doubting whether or not climate change is anthropogenic.
Lu explained that he noticed that discourse around climate change and the direct impacts on people it has was lacking. Due to this concern, he and other co-founders decided to avail other existing climate change advocacy groups on campus, as well as the Princeton Environmental Institute, for guidance. After sending a Google Forms poll to listservs of the student body, Lu noted that the response for what the students wanted was overwhelmingly cogent and clear.
Out of the 260-plus responses, most students wanted to learn about climate change solutions. PSCL had been in contact with Citizens Climate Lobby in order to see how to best meet student desire to better understand not only the possible solutions to climate change, but also the feasible politics of it, as well as how to take part in such politics.
“We decided to stick with advocacy,” Lu said. "The CCL is dedicated to lobbying representatives and legislators” on effective climate activism. He noted that one such solution for the national chapter, the “crux of a solution to climate change," is the carbon fee and dividend policy.
In short, this policy takes form as a steadily increasing tax on fossil fuels at the point of extraction, for example from an oil well. That money would be collected and redistributed via a check to American households. Those who use less energy on average are issued a tax benefit, whereas those who use large quantities of energy will end up paying an extra tax.
“Overall this helps the majority of households, because of the equal distribution," Lohmann said.
Other sources of activism come from the Put a Price On It campaign, which calls for pricing carbon pollution to encourage solutions to climate change. PSCL asked University President Christopher Eisgruber '83 to offer an official statement on where the University stands on the carbon tax, as well as to have a meeting with him to further discuss this issue. Eisgruber declined to meet; however, he clarified that the role of an academic institution such as the University is to promote academic scholarship and not take a stance on technical matters that few people are knowledgeable in.
Director of Media Relations John Cramer wrote in an email that he cannot answer questions about Eisgruber's schedule but "that in many cases where students request a meeting with the President they are advised of the office hours he conducts periodically at the residential colleges, which students are welcome to attend."
According to the website of the Office of the President, these Conversations with the President and office hours will be held four times this spring. Feb. 10 office hours in Butler have passed, but office hours will be held Mar. 28, Apr. 18, and May 5 for one hour each. They will take place in Frist, Whitman, and Mathey respectively.
“We were a little bummed at first, but we laid out other plans to search for other possibilities in engaging in political awareness,” Lu said. On Mar. 6, the University held its Day of Action, where many advocates held teach-ins and talks on important matters in light of recent political disinterest in climate and social issues. According to Lu, many students expressed interested in being a part of PSCL and taking part in climate change activism.
“We’re going to have a slew of events in the coming future,” Lohmann said. “We’re going to have study breaks, speakers come in, panels, lunch breaks, coordinating with other groups and professors, and our goal is to invigorate the student body to contact their representatives and debate these issues.”
In fact, PSCL’s goal is centered on this debate.
“People are responding to the Trump administration, from either side of the aisle, but it’s important to not just fight Donald’s battles, but the battles we’d like to fight, including climate change,” Lohmann said.