December 3, 2023
Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation on Climate
Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Moderated Conversation on ClimateGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlanta, Georgia DR. SHEPHERD:  Well, thank you for being here to get things started.  And I just want to say how inspired I am to be here.  I’ve been working on climate issues for almost 30 years now.  I began my career at NASA as a research scientist and now continue to study...

Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia

DR. SHEPHERD:  Well, thank you for being here to get things started. 
 
And I just want to say how inspired I am to be here.  I’ve been working on climate issues for almost 30 years now.  I began my career at NASA as a research scientist and now continue to study extreme weather and climate at the University of Georgia.  I’m in Georgia Tech territory, but thank you for having me.  (Laughter.)
 
In recent years, I have focused some of my extreme weather event work on how it affects disproportionately communities of color, the poor, and disadvantaged communities. 
 
And this is not just academic; I mean, I grew up in communities just like this.  We are at a critical moment in the history where we have an opportunity to chart a new path.
 
Over the past two years with the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the CHIPS and Science Act, there has been significant progress made towards addressing climate change.
 
In this moment, how are you thinking about the progress of the last two years and the work ahead?
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, let me first thank both Drs. Shepherd and Bolden for your work, and — and to all of the folks who are here. 
 
Because the way that I think about this moment is that I do believe it to be a transformational moment.  But in order for us to truly achieve that capacity, it’s going to require all to be involved.  And that’s going to be about our scientists, our researchers, our academicians.  But it’s going to be about our students.  It’s going to be about our unions.  It’s going to be about the private sector.  It’s going to be about our teachers.  It’s going to be about our youth leaders. 
 
It is going to take a whole-of-community and, I will say on behalf of the administration, a whole-of-government approach to understanding the excitement that we should all feel about the opportunity of this moment. 
 
And then, also, thinking of it in a way that we understand the intersection between so many movements that have been about a fight for justice and how we should see that intersection, then, in the context of this moment in the way that we can actually, potentially, I do believe — and actually, I’m much more optimistic than that — close some of the gaps that have long existed around which communities have what resources, around which communities are disproportionately and adversely affected by our failure to act or take seriously issues like clean water, as an example. 
 
And — and so, I’m very excited about this moment because, as you said, Dr. Shepherd, what our administration has been able to do in these last two years, in very large part because of all the people here who have been demanding it for years, is — through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, through the Inflation Reduction Act — which, by the way, the Inflation Reduction Act alone was $370 billion to address climate. 
 
But we have now looked at the total amount of all that is going to be put in through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Inflation Act — act, act, act — you don’t hear all these names, right?  (Laughter.)
 
But — but we’re looking at at least a trillion dollars to hit the streets of America to address some of these issues.  And that’s very exciting.  (Applause)  Around, again, what is a moment where we should think of it as not being about incremental change and slowly moving the needle, but embarking — jumping onto a new plateau. 
 
And so, that’s how I think about it.  I think about it in the context of establishing a whole new industry, a clean energy economy. 
 
And for the students who are here, whether you are in — you know, whether you are studying to be in human resources or to be an engineer or in the school of communications, what it’s going to require of you to jump to this new plateau and have the bright minds who will be thinking, then, about these traditional occupations and skills through the lens of what we will do that is about sustaining and growing and thriving in a new clean-energy economy. 
 
So, that’s the macro way that I’m looking at it.  I also look at it through the lens of being the Vice President of the United States, having been — (applause) — thank you. 
 
And because, like you, I have a background of also caring about this, but — but in the role that I have of, you know, having, by this point, two years in, I’ve — I’ve met with 100 world leaders, in person or by phone — most in person — kings, chancellors, presidents, and prime ministers. 
 
And almost to a one, in the conversations that I have with them, I raise this issue, either because when I’m talking with certain world leaders — for example, recently, we convened the African Union leaders to talk about the impact of extreme climate on those nations, on those countries, and the impact that is both about energy security and food security. 
 
Thinking about it, when I have convened — as I’ve now done three times — the CARICOM countries, the Caribbean countries, where we are looking at the reality — and I have been very, you know, some would say, you know, out there a bit, but I — that’s fine with me — to talk about how, you know, they’re — we sneeze, and they catch a cold.
 
Because you look at the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, and they are the most industrial.  And the United States is one of them.  And then you look at the Caribbean nations, as an example — island nations — which are not the biggest emitters.  They are some of the lowest emitters, but are paying the biggest price because, of course, they’re island nations. 
 
And so, you’re looking at everything from land erosion to what it also means in terms of recognizing that, for most of them, the biggest source of their GDP is tourism and what the extreme climate means in terms of reducta- — reduction of tourism and a direct impact and a hit to their GDP. 
 
So, these are all of the ways, just to start this conversation, that I think about this moment.  But it is a moment of great opportunity. 
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Thank you. 
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  
 
DR. BOLDEN:  That’s amazing.  I’m still shocked to be here in your presence, Madam Vice President. 
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)
 
DR. BOLDEN:  So, it’s extremely exciting that we actually have an administration that’s taking the climate crisis so seriously. 
 
And though I’m an oceanographer now, I discovered my passion for climate science, justice, and equity from experiences growing up in landlocked Tennessee. 
 
Up there, there aren’t necessarily discussions about climate change from the perspective of sea level rise.  What we do talk about are severe flooding and drought events that are becoming more and more frequent and more and more intense, regularly displacing people and entire communities who have little voice or socioeconomic means to adapt, much like you said in your most recent answer. 
 
I witnessed this in my own community growing up.  And the concern that climate-related impacts will continue to compound and continue to disproportionately impact the same communities serve as a great motivator for my chosen career.  And I think that it’s important for us to understand how our own lived experiences inform this work. 
 
So, for you, as the first woman and person of color to serve in the role of Vice President — (applause) — the first Vice President to attend an HBCU — (applause) — the first of many things — (applause) — how have all of those firsts impacted your approach to this work?
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I’m very proud to — to serve.  And I do also recognize the broad shoulders upon which I stand.  So, I will start with that.
 
You know, I grew up — I was born in Oakland, California.  I was raised by a community that was very deeply steeped in civil rights.  My parents met when they were active marching and shouting for justice in the Civil Rights Movement. 
 
And — and I have always thought of this issue through the lens of justice, in large part because I was raised to think about fairness and equity. 
 
And when I looked at this issue, it was just so very clear, to your point, that — that the communities that were disproportionately impacted by, for example, poor air quality — it doesn’t take much to realize that some of the poorest air quality zones in our nation are the same places where people of color and low-income communities live. 
 
And so, it’s something that was — I was raised with.  I was raised in the Bay Area in California.  So that was — it takes pride in being one of the homes of the movement for environmental justice. 
 
You know, I grew up — there was — there was this whole campaign about “Save the Bay.”  And it was about water.  Because also, coming from California, the issue of water and water policy was always front and center, because it was about droughts.  And — and now it’s about either droughts or flooding. 
 
In fact, I love water policy.  I confess I am a water policy geek.  (Laughs.)  I think it’s — it’s so important, right?  Like, we could just geek out right here, the three of us, right? 
 
And — but so, coming from that background, and then when I was elected DA of San Francisco, I started the first environmental justice unit of any DA’s office in the country.  (Applause.)
 
Because there’s a — there’s a community in San Francisco, Bayview Hunters Point, that at the time — and still, I believe — had an annual household income of about $15,000 — 1-5.  And it was being treated like a dumping ground by people from outside of the community. 
 
And I decided to take on the issue in a way that was about saying, “Look, there’s some bad actors in this who are coming into the community and treating, you know, in particular, a community of Black families, as though they don’t have the same rights that everyone else does to, you know, health and wellbeing.”
 
When I was attorney general, we took on everything from oil companies to taking on what we need to do around consumer protection on these issues. 
 
And then, in the Senate, there was that work as well, which was also about paying attention to the diversity of extreme weather issues. 
 
Again, coming from California, we’re talking about wildfire and drought.  And then, of course, in the south and eastern seaboard, we’re talking about a combination of floods and hurricanes and — and all that that means. 
 
And so, I grew up with the issue in many ways, but it is, I think, one of the most pressing issues of our time. 
    
And again, now, with our administration, as you have said, prioritizing what we need to do around solutions — let’s just jump in it and jump forward, but do it in a way that it is inclusive and that we are asking the communities that are affected to lead and not telling them what we’re going to do for them.  (Applause.)
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Thank you. 
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Amazing.  Amazing.
 
And one of the things I think you’re hearing the Vice President say — and it’s something I often say — is this is not about polar bears.  I like polar bears.  They’re cute.  But this is about kitchen-table issues that affect lives in Oakland, California. in Canton, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee.
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  I want to talk about the historic investments the administration has made.  There are a lot of components.  But one of my favorites, personally — and I have to sneak this in, being a University of Georgia professor — is the engineering with nature and nature-based solutions components. 
 
We are — we’re doing quite a bit of that at UGA with the Army Corps of Engineer because — Engineers — because we know, as you noted, atmospheric rivers in California, hurricanes, so forth, disrupting our coastal communities and our communities inland as well. 
 
With all this federal investment, what is one of the parts that you are most excited about?
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, there are a lot.  And I really would love for you to talk a little bit more about your work, Dr. Shepherd, because I think it is something that is very exciting, and it seems to be remote and very high level, which of course it is, in terms of the level of knowledge that one must have to do what you do.  But it’s also very accessible in terms of lived experiences. 
 
But the thing — one of the things that excites me most: I’m very, again, excited about water policy.  And so, that — by that, I mean, you know the importance of — of all of us understanding that I believe that access to clean water should be a right and not just a privilege of those who can afford it.  (Applause.)  Right?
 
And that’s everything from getting rid of lead in pipes, which is a big area of focus for our administration, which I’ve been among the leaders on, which is to get rid — our goal with the infrastructure money is to get rid of all lead pipes and service lines within the next nine years.  (Applause.) 
 
You look at Flint, Michigan, and you look at so many other places that have suffered where our babies have been drinking water that is toxic.  And it impacts their health.  It impacts their ability to learn. 
 
I mean, again, this is what I mean about the intersection — right? — because it’s an environmental issue, but it is also an educational justice issue and an equity issue around education, and it’s also a public health issue.  Right?
 
So, water policy is very important to me for that reason.  But one of the other areas where I’m very particularly interested in and excited about is electric vehicles — and, in particular, electric school buses.  (Applause.)
    
So, electric school buses — 25 million children a day, during the week, go to school on the school bus.  Who of us went to school on the school bus?  Right.
 
Okay, so about — I think my numbers are right — but somewhere around 95 percent of — over 90 percent of the school buses that are picking up our children that the school bus driver is driving — so we’re talking about workplace safety — where the teacher and the teacher’s aide and all of the people who are involved in the education system are standing there when that school buses idling to help the kids get on, help the kids get off — over 90 percent are diesel fuel fueled.  And they’re inhaling all that. 
 
So, again, the piece then is about the public health piece — the piece that is about what that means in terms of asthma rates and what children miss in terms of school because they have an asthma attack.  All of that stuff related. 
 
But here’s the other piece about electric school buses.  We’re building them right here in the United States.  (Applause.)  We’re building them right here in the United States and have the potential to be a worldwide leader. 
 
And why should that be exciting?  Because that’s about jobs.  That’s about good-paying jobs.  Because the jobs to build those buses require folks to be in union apprenticeships where they will be getting an incredible education to do the work that is about engineering, about being an electrician, to build those buses — to fuel not only through electricity these buses getting these kids to school, but also fuel our economy and strengthen our economy — which is about growing jobs, it’s about U.S.-based manufacturing. 
 
So, for so many reasons, that’s one of the components of what we’re doing right now that excites me. 
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Thank you.  Thank you very much for that answer.  And I drove here in an electric car, so I’m really excited about them as well. 
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.  (Laughter.)
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Don’t believe the hype and some of the critics out there.  Do your research because it really is our future. 
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, we also have rebates in our — the work that we’ve been doing.  And not only rebates to purchase an electric vehicle, but, the first time, where we now have thousands of dollars of rebates to buy a used electric vehicle, passenger vehicle. 
 
So, that’s very important to know as well.  Because, again, when we talk about equity, it should not be that only the people who have, you know, wealth can have access to electric vehicles.  What is that?  Right?  (Applause.)
 
If we agree that it’s about public health for everybody and if it’s about emissions that affect everybody, everyone should be able to partake in moving into this new green energy and clean energy economy. 
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Amazing.  Thank you.  As a self-proclaimed automotive enthusiast, I — (laughter) — I share that passion for electric vehicles, and I’m adding electric buses to that list. 
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right?  Oh, I’m with you.  I’m going to Minnesota tomorrow, actually.
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Oh, very cool. 
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And there’s an electric transit bus work that’s happening there.  And again, transit bus.  Right?  So, public transportation.
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Exactly.
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Who’s taking public transportation?  Right?  Who’s sitting at the bus stop waiting for that bus?  And who’s driving the bus?  Right?
 
So, just thinking about, again, the whole ecosystem around this.
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Absolutely.  The future of public transit, particularly electrified public transit — it’s amazing. 
 
It’s kind of really a good example of how climate policy impacts so many of our daily life activities, even from the individual to community levels.
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Something that I found incredibly enlightening and rewarding, even in my short career so far as an academic, are efforts aimed at community resilience policy because of its potential to explicitly increase equitable and inclusive incorporation, focusing on climate policies that are grassroots and incorporate science, community perspectives, and day-to-day, real-world interactions with climate variability and its multifaceted impacts.
 
I’ve heard that you also love to dig in on policy issues in this kind of really nitty-gritty, multifaceted way.  So, what is one example of a climate policy issue that you are most passionate about?
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Water policy would be probably the — the — (laughter) — surprise. 
 
DR. BOLDEN:  I figured.
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so water policy.  So, again, we agree — we agree that it should — access to clean water should be a right.  We agree that it is — it is an essential component to life.  And we also agree it is precious. 
 
And when we look at extreme climate, we see that we are experiencing drought around the world. 
 
By the way, when you think about the scarcity of water, also understand it’s a national security issue.  Understand it just — it doesn’t take much to just think about and reflect on the fact that if people don’t have water where they live, they will leave where they live.  If they cannot grow food where they live, they will leave where they live, and they will go to other places.
 
And if we think about this in the global perspective, and they will invariably go to places that speak a different language and pray to a different god.  And what do you think might happen then?  You’re probably looking at the beginning of conflict. 
 
We are seeing changing patterns around the world based on the scarcity of natural and essential resources. 
 
So, again, when I think about water policy, I put it in a context that is both local — in terms of Flint or in terms of Mississippi — and I think about it in a global perspective. 
 
So, water policy.  Let’s diversify water policy.  Let’s think with an equal amount of priority around everything from conservation to recycling, to what we are doing to capture rainwater, you know, in places that are on the coast — be it the Gulf, be it in the Pacific Ocean. 
 
We tend with — with floods and with excessive rainwater to want to get rid of it, right?  Because it becomes — it’s dangerous.  It becomes disaster proportions.  And then we end up flushing it into the ocean. 
 
Whereas if we were thinking in a smarter, more long-term way about the precious nature of this, we would invest — equally, again — in conservation recycling but also water capture — storage.  And then thinking about storage, it’s smarter, instead of having it above ground where it can evaporate, underground. 
 
Again, that’s all about jobs.  We need engineers.  We need architects.  We need the bricklayers and the pipefitters and the electricians to do this work. 
 
And then we’re talking also about desalination, which presents interesting issues in terms of the electricity that generates, and so we have to think then solar and wind turbine.  And, again, another ecosystem that we need to think through.
 
But water policy is — it really does excite me, and there’s a lot of good work to be done there.
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Thank you so much.  And it really brings to bear something that you said when you talk about resources and sustainability and resilience. 
 
And I’m thinking about a project that both Isaiah and I are involved in right now with — here between Georgia and Georgia Tech called “upcycle.”  It’s not dealing with water policy, but we’re thinking about net emission — negative-emission technologies and changing the climate or modifying aspects of how we work in our technological society, because we know the downstream implications. 
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.   
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  I want to talk about one of those downstream implications right now.  One of the most immediate impacts of the climate crisis is on public health and the inequities it exacerbates. 
 
I’ve done work in this area with something I call the “extreme weather climate gap,” which gets at exactly what you’re talking about: this idea that certain communities are disproportionately impacted not just from sort of the direct impacts from these extreme weather climate events, from the follow-on sort of diseases associated with floodwaters —
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yes, right.
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  — and extreme heat sustained over time.
 
Just down the street, we’ve identified communities here in Atlanta that are disproportionately exposed to flooding and heat, for example, in some of our work. 
 
So, how have you seen the impacts of the climate crisis on public health?
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  They’re extreme.  And I think — I’d love that we could each share — because I think it’d be helpful also for, especially, the students who are here to hear your path, Dr. Shepherd and Dr. Bolden, around — 
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Sure, I’m happy to do that.
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  I would love to — why don’t — why don’t we start there.  But then I’ll — I’ll bring up things like urban zones around no trees and what that means.  What that means — what we look at in terms of the extreme climate and how that could affect an issue that I’ve long worked on, like maternal mortality. 
 
There are a lot of things there, but can we talk a little bit first about the two of you and your path to being where you are now?
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Sure.
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Because we need more of you.  (Laughs.) 
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  We do.  (Applause.)  We certainly do. 
 
I’ll start.  And, again, we’re in awe of your presence, so thank you so much for joining us.  (Laughter.)
 
And, by the way, Phi-Skee.  I’m going to slip that in because I’m an Alpha.  And —
 
But one of the things that I would say is that as the — as the former president of the American Meteorological Society, we know that 2 percent or less of our — represent the kind of communities that are most affected by these things.  So, a bee sting set me off on a path to weather and climate because I found that it was —
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  You said “a bee sting”?
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  A bee sting.  It really was.  I — I found out I was deathly allergic to bee stings.  And so, I shifted my sixth-grade science project to weather.  (Laughter.)  And so, I was not interested in forecasting.  So, talk about a plan B. 
 
But I knew that I wasn’t interested in forecasting.  I wanted to know the hows and why of weather and climate.  And so, went off to Florida State University, did my degree work, and then worked at NASA for many years developing some of these big satellite missions that I know are so much a part of the portfolio that the administration uses. 
 
And so, I’ve done quite a bit of work in extreme weather and climate, been on the various national academy panels and so forth. 
 
But in recent years, for the reasons that you articulated, it’s important to translate this sort of theoretical science into policy.
 
We — we just submitted a proposal to NASA looking at how extreme rainfall and soil moisture exacerbate septic system failures —
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yes.
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  — in the Black south, in the Deep South.  Those are kitchen-table, how-do-they-affect-me issues.  And so, that’s really been part of my path. 
 
I’ve shared and will pass it off to Isaiah.
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Yeah, my path, it’s a pretty recent memory.  (Laughter.)  But as I mentioned, I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee.  I was always a big science nerd.  But I also noticed, like, you know, right around my junior year of high school, we had like a massive 500-plus year flooding event that rolled through the city and basically decimated populations all along the floodplain — basically along the Cumberland River.  And here we are, more than a decade later, those communities still haven’t really come back.  They haven’t bounced back. 
 
And what I saw even worse was that sometimes, like, the city officials or like gentrification basically started moving in and taking advantage of the fact that people couldn’t go back and live in those places.  (Applause.)  
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right.  Right.  Right. 
 
DR. BOLDEN:  And so, I kind of had this passion burgeoning right then and there happen — you know, like, kind of traumatic, but things like this can be born out of trauma a lot of times.
 
As someone who has like got this aptitude for science, aptitude for math, but then is seeing that the science is not reaching the public in the way that it should.  What can I then do with my career as an environmental scientist to generate data and get that hand — get that data into the hands of people who could do something with it and better adapt. 
 
And so, with that in mind, I left Tennessee, and I went to Bowdoin College — a small liberal arts college in Maine.  And I majored in earth and oceanographic science and minored in chemistry.  Still persisted to be a big nerd. 
 
And I basically discovered that if I really want to understand the variability of climate on timescales that humans care about that I could do something about, then I probably should understand the ocean.  Excuse me.  I probably should understand how the ocean interacts with climate. 
 
And that set me off on a wild path that led to coral reefs and ocean acidification issues and working with NOAA as a Hollings Scholar and to my position here at Georgia Tech, as an assistant professor in earth and atmospheric science.  So — (applause) — yeah. 
 
So — but, again, this this whole thing is motivated by this idea that I would — my career goals are to do awesome science, but then also get that science into the hands of people so that we can actually make progress and show that science in society is a link that, like, we need to pursue, basically.  (Applause.)
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  You know, you — as you both were talking, it’s reminding me — I mean, the connections, right?  So going back to the issue of lead pipes.  
 
The mothers and the fathers and the grandmothers and the grandfathers in the communities that have been suffering from these have been fighting for years and years and years.  It didn’t take a science degree for them to know what was happening to their children and what was happening in their community. 
 
And when I think about your journey in life and your calling — both of you — part of it is having people who are in these positions who understand that and understand the brilliance and the level of knowledge that communities have.  And we need to listen to them.  There is that piece of it.  (Applause.)
 
But it — it — there’s another piece, Dr. Bolden, that you were talking about that also has to be understood.  Like on — again, on the issue of lead pipes.  So, lead pipes weren’t only laid in low-income communities.  They were — you know, this is — this was a thing at a time, right? 
 
The difference is this: If you are in a community where you have high rates of homeownership and everybody has got a good-paying job and you know you’ve got lead pipes, you just pay to remove them.  But if you’re living in a rental unit or in public housing or in a place where you’re barely making the mortgage every month, much less being able to re-pipe your whole home, including the service lines, then you know what that means? 
 
And so, the policy, the — part of the importance of how the policy and how our approach has changed to that is to say, “No, the federal government — government should be paying to remove these lead pipes.  We should not just put it on the residents and the homeowners in those communities.”  For a number of reasons that, yes, is about having a goal of equitable outcomes, but also understanding that collectively we pay a price in terms of, again, the educational impact, the public health impact of those kinds of things. 
 
But having, you know, brilliant people in the positions that you’re in to be able to see the connections is so, so incredibly important.
 
And what — and for all the students who are here and thinking about your work — and I know we have students from many of the universities and colleges in the area — really do see this as an area that is so vast in terms of the skills that will be required.  And we need you. 
 
We really need you, because this is the thing — back to the first point about what’s exciting about this moment: There are going to be a lot of new jobs.  There are going to be a lot of new work.  We’re talking about a new approach, a new industry, and we need you guys there to, in some cases, do the translating that is necessary for people to be clear on the concept.  You know? 
 
But thank you both for your — just for what you do.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Applause.)
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Thank you.  Yeah, thank you for that very enlightening message to the next generation. 
 
And kind of spawning off of that: As somebody who is just at the beginning of their career, I know that the climate crisis is going to be a dominant portion of my entire life.  It’s going to be a dominant presence in my entire life.  It already has been.  And dealing with such a heavy and often wicked problem can feel pretty daunting at times. 
 
And so, I try to make a conscious effort, both in the classroom as a professor and in my research, to highlight the creative critical-thinking skills and problem-solving skills that are necessary to address these issues from a very inherently interdisciplinary perspective, inclusive of explorations, as Dr. Shepherd mentioned, of engineered solutions to climate change, like ecosystem respiration and negative carbon emission technologies. 
 
In these ways, I’m trying to leverage my role at Georgia Tech to do my part to change what it truly means to be a geoscientist.  We need to get more comfortable wearing many hats from the academic to the social.  (Applause.)
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Right. 
 
DR. BOLDEN:  So, in your role as Vice President —
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yes?
 
DR. BOLDEN:  — you have to deal with all kinds of issues, not just climate-related ones.  So, when it comes to tackling the climate crisis, what keeps you going?  And how do you maintain perspective?
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, moments like this.  Moments like this.  I mean, look at — look at this incredible room and group of leaders who have convened from every and all walks of life and work to come together under one roof to understand the collective dedication that we need to have to an issue like that.  This gives me a lot of motivation to keep doing the work. 
 
The motivation is also, like, just — I have — in most of — in fact, all of my offices, I have brilliant teams that I work with. 
 
And I will always challenge my team.  And I’ll say, “Okay, on any subject that we’re talking about, I would like you to sit back and tell me, so I can understand the relevance of what we’re talking about, how will this impact a child.”  It’s an interesting question to always ask of yourself, when somebody is debating public policy or some opinion about what’s supposed to be, to ask, “Hmm, how will that impact a child?”  (Applause.) 
 
And when you do, it — it will — it will — it will really require you to challenge a lot of your assumptions and to think about, “Okay, is this going — is there somewhere here that this — how is a child impacted?”  Right? 
 
And so, we have been talking extensively about that.  And that’s part of how I think about it.  And — and to the extent that I believe that we’re moving the ball forward, the satisfaction I get is knowing that the children will — will benefit.  And that gives me a great deal of satisfaction to think that that is what we can do.  Yeah. 
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Thank you.
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  (Applause.)  Yeah.
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Well, wow.  Time — time really flies.  Madam Vice President, thank you for bringing us together for this conversation.  And thank you for Georgia Tech for hosting us. 
 
This convening was so important to me.  And they asked me to put my perspective here before I give you a chance for final words. 
 
And it — for me, it’s simple.  I mean, there’s no plan-B planet; this is our only planet.  And so —
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  — we need to take care of this one and the people living in it from all walks of life. 
 
So, before we close, I want to ensure that you have the opportunity to provide any closing thoughts.
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, let’s just — again, let’s all stay active in this and understand, to your point, this is — this is the planet we’ve got.  It is a precious place.  It is — it is a place that we have a responsibility for taking care of, and that there is a whole lot of work that can be done. 
 
But the clock is not just ticking, it’s like banging.  It is requiring us to move quickly.  But there is so much to be excited about in terms of what we can do. 
 
And, again, I will say to the students who are here and those who are thinking about their role in this: You are going to come out and just leapfrog over all of us.  Because, you know, especially for our younger leaders, the benefit that you have is you’re not burdened by any question about, “Is this real?”  That is great, because we’ve been having to deal with some folks who just literally — (laughter) — like we’re kind of like, “Have you looked out the window?”  You know?  (Laughs.)
 
But you guys are coming out, and it’s just — and now we’re talking about all kinds of creative, very exciting ways to do this that is — it’s going to be about public health, public education, about strengthening our economy, about investing in jobs, about respecting the dignity of work, about being a model for the world, about being a good shepherd of resources, both in terms of the responsibility that America has to Americans and that America has to its neighbors. 
 
So, it’s a very exciting time.  And I’m just very thankful to everyone here for taking your time, this afternoon, to be here for this conversation.
 
And to Dr. Shepherd, Dr. Bolden, thank you very much.  Thank you. 
 
DR. BOLDEN:  Thank you, Madam Vice President.
 
DR. SHEPHERD:  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)
 
Thank you.  And that concludes our program today.  Thank you. 
 
                          END      
 
 
 

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/02/08/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-in-a-moderated-conversation-on-climate-2/

originally published at Politics - Social Gov