The neon blue and orange lights of the NBC peacock flooded Kroon Hall Tuesday night for the filming of a town hall meeting on climate change moderated by the Nightly News veteran and former anchor Tom Brokaw.
The event, called “Changing Planet: The Impact on Lives and Values” — organized in partnership with NBC, Discover Magazine and the National Science Foundation (NSF) — is the first in a series of similar events at colleges across the country intended to jumpstart a national conversation on climate change in communities and among students, said Jeff Nesbit, director of the NSF office of legislative and public affairs.
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“We hope to use this as a model for dozens or even hundreds of college town-halls just like this to talk about underlying science and facts [on climate change],” Nesbit said.
Airing in mid-February on the Weather Channel and online, Tuesday night’s event was broken into segments discussing the impact of climate change on the economy, health, religion and youth. Each of the four 15-minute segments began with NBC video clips followed by panel discussions moderated by Brokaw, with student questions interlacing the session.
Brokaw and the panel of environmental experts discussed their ideas about how climate change has caused, and will continue to cause, changes in our health including outbursts of infections diseases. Rajendra Pachauri , director of Yale Climate & Energy Institute and panelist, said that to prevent the United States from falling further behind other nations economically, the country needs to make investments on sustainable industries.
“This is about learning to do the things we already enjoy with more sustainable products,” he said.
Students chosen for the taping of this event were drawn from both Yale and New Haven high schools. At the schools, the program directors reached out to students to complete a survey on their opinions of climate change; from this, about 100 students were picked to represent the spectrum of opinion on the topic.
High school junior Evelyn Gonzalez, one of the 13 participating students from Common Ground High School, said that she was interested in coming to the event to complement her involvement in environmental leadership at school.
“I want people to talk about this issue and notice that we harm the planet,” she said.
The survey was given both before and after Tuesday’s event, the Yale Project on Climate Change wrote in an e-mail to students, in order to gauge the impact of the event on the students’ attitudes toward the climate situation.
The idea for the series was first conceived in 2009 by Nesbit at NSF and Robin Hogen, the director of strategic communications for the Yale Office of Public Affairs.
“We started with the concept to have arguably the most senior and most respected journalist in America Tom Brokaw to share a forum with students and citizens to try to stat a dialogue about climate change,” Hogen said.
In April, “Changing Planet” will hold another event at George Washington University.