Debate introduces Scholars to economic and environmental experts

Nineteen Schreyer Honors College Scholars found themselves front and center at a debate on energy policy held in New York City Tuesday night.

IQ2 Panelists The debate, sponsored by Intelligence Squared U.S., brought together a six-member panel to verbally spar over the premise that “Major Reductions in Carbon Emissions Are Not Worth the Money.” Using the Oxford-style debate format, three speakers represented each side of the motion. The debate was taped before a capacity audience at Symphony Hall in midtown Manhattan for broadcast on the BBC and National Public Radio affiliates later this spring.

In the front row of the audience: a group of Schreyer Scholars, representing various academic disciplines, there to witness the debate. The group met the debate’s moderator, John Donvan, a news correspondent for ABC News’ “Nightline,” prior to the start of the debate and was invited to submit questions for consideration by the panel.

Moderator John Donovan and Scholar Andrea Leshak Andrea Leshak, a sophomore Scholar studying environmental resource management in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, was selected to address the panel with her question: "In terms of economic costs, environmental impacts (such as those resulting from carbon emissions) have consistently been regarded as "externalities". In his book, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Al Gore suggests including environmental impacts within total economic costs. How greatly would American industries be affected if carbon emissions suddenly became economic costs?"

“I felt lucky to be there,” Andrea said. “It’s a very important topic, and the panelists were very knowledgeable.”

The panelists included:

  • economist Bjorn Lomborg, founder of the Copenhagen Consensus, an experiment aimed at ranking world problems based on cost-benefit analysis
  • lawyer Peter Huber, author of "The Bottomless Well" (a book describing the endless supply of energy available) and a senior fellow at the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute
  • biogeographer/revivalist preacher Philip Stott from the University of London
  • journalist and would-be politician Oliver Tickell
  • former Sierra Club president and environmental consultant Adam Werbach of public relations firm Saatchi & Saatchi
  • consultant and business school professor L. Hunter Lovins of Natural Capitalism Solutions

Andrea’s question was asked during the open discussion period after the panelists’ formal arguments.

After listening to the arguments presented, Andrea said that the debate brought to the forefront the economic challenges needing to be addressed in order for energy policies to be effective.

“I learned that there are a lot of economic issues that prevent people from encouraging environmental protection and cutting carbon emissions,” Andrea said. “It seems like a lot of people really focus on where the money is so there is a lot of future and sustainable technologies and renewable resources but in the current day we’re still stuck in fossil fuels.”

The Schreyer Honors College is considering sponsoring Oxford-style debates at University Park in the future. Taking a group of students to IQ2 debate this week was a good opportunity to introduce Schreyer Scholars to the debate structure, said Dr. Christian M. M. Brady, the Schreyer Honors College’s dean.

"Debates where informed individuals can speak passionately about a topic without things escalating into a shouting match are much needed today as we weigh important issues impacting public policy,” Dr. Brady said. “This type of civil discourse is exactly the type of program Schreyer Scholars and the university community at large should be exposed to on a regular basis.”

Andrea’s experience at the debate indicates she is one Scholar who saw firsthand the value of the discussion.

“It was a very educational trip that was totally worthwhile because there are two sides to most issues and both sides should be heard,” she said.

The IQ2 “Major Reductions in Carbon Emissions Are Not Worth the Money?“ debate is scheduled to air in March on the BBC and NPR. Check local listings for broadcast times.

For more information on the Schreyer Honors College, contact Chris Arbutina, college relations coordinator, at 814-863-4560 or caa1@psu.edu

For a report on the January 13th IQ2 debate, go to the Intelligence Squared Web site at http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/News_Media_c46.aspx

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Last Updated November 18, 2010