Three names to think about: Arnold Schwarzenegger, chief executive Peter Darbee of PG&E and MIT professor Peter Senge.
Who would have thought that the California Gubernator, who lives large with his private plane and seven (!) Hummers, would have pushed through the most aggressive legislation to date in the U.S. to curb greenhouse gas emissions? Schwarzeneggerâ€™s not alone among Republican governors, either. New Yorkâ€™s Pataki and Massachusettsâ€™ Romney are backing a seven-state plan to control carbon emissions from power plants.
Darbee, a former investment banker who became CEO of San Francisco-based PG&E last year, has declared that â€œclimate change is a problem.â€ [NY Times, registration required] His support for the California law, and for federal controls on greenhouse gases, helped blunt the opposition from old-school oil and manufacturing businesses. The fact that PG&E doesnâ€™t currently operate coal-powered plants made it easier for him to support regulation, but so be it.
Senge, meanwhile, has likened the shift in thinking about climate change to the consensus that formed over the years about the harm of tobacco or the need to act against apartheid in South Africa. The author of The Fifth Discipline and founding chair of the Society of Organizational Learning says,
Thirty years ago, no one would have foreseen that smoking in most public spaces would become socially unacceptable. And in 1985, who would have thought that ten years later, South Africa would have a multi-racial democracy, with no violent revolution? Once mental models begin to shift, changes can come far quicker than anyone expects.
It was, you may recall, a coalition of activists, religious leaders, social investors and corporate interests who drove the divestment debate over South Africa. Two decades later, you have Al Gore, evangelical Christians, social investors, Wal-Mart, GE and Republican governors saying that we need to curb global warming. Can federal action be far away?
P.S. Sonal Pandya of Conservation International, an environmental activist who worked for the California law, reminds me that the governor drives a hydrogen-powered Hummer, as Amanda Griscom reported.