• 11.26.08

Three Who Changed the World


It almost sounds like the beginning of a joke or tall tale. An Austrian, a Hawaiian, and a man from China got together in Beverly Hills one day…

When I first envisioned a gathering of world leaders, hosted by US Governors who had taken their own bold steps to address climate change, my primary goal was to highlight the fact that a lot of work is being done to make our economy more energy efficient, to adopt renewables like solar and wind, and to reduce our carbon footprints. I thought if the 33 states that have “climate action plans” could showcase this progress, especially in a forum with the same countries that will meet over the next 12 months to craft a global climate action plan, we might demonstrate that the foundation exists for a real solution to the climate crisis.

I hoped that China, India, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and Indonesia would also show the world that they too had taken major steps forward and that we might even sign an agreement to help each other do more, regardless of what our national and international institutions were undertaking. I even had the “audacity of hope” that a certain President-elect would see the benefits of such a gathering to stake out some goals for our country for a brighter, cleaner, more sustainable future.

Well, at last week’s Governors’ Global Climate Summit (November 18-19) in Beverly Hills, the Austrian-born Governor (California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger) introduced the Hawaiian-born President-elect (Barack Obama) to a SRO-crowd that included the Director of China’s climate change efforts (Gao Guangsheng) and, after Mr. Obama committed the US to bold goals on climate change solutions and renewable energy deployment, the Governor, the Director, and two dozen other world leaders grabbed the ball and ran way down the field with it.

Bottom line? In December 2009 in Copenhagen, when the UN gathers world leaders together to forge that new global climate deal, they now have a real chance to get it done. The world has now essentially committed to reducing its greenhouse gases 80% by 2050 (and by at least a quarter before 2020) and to democratizing our economies by democratizing the energy that powers them.

Yes, that’s the real benefit of a low-carbon economy, because everyone has unfettered access to the sun, the wind, the things that grow, the moving waters, and other inexhaustible sources of clean energy. That’s real democracy because it can lift everyone on earth to a better quality of life for themselves and their children. I couldn’t be more pleased with what our little Summit accomplished (and to see the entire thing on podcast, go to

What more could you ask of a meeting between an Austrian, a Hawaiian, and a man from China?



About the author

From his youth in Australia to career experiences in Europe, Africa, China and across the United States, Terry has developed expertise in business, farming, education, non-profit, the environment, the arts, and government. A United States Coast Guard-licensed ship captain, Terry has long been drawn to the undersea world, starting in the 1960s with a family-run tropical fish breeding business in Australia and continuing with studies on conch depletion in the Bahamas, manatee populations in Florida coastal waters, and mariculture in the Gulf States with Texas A&M University.