Light & Verity

Governors sign on to climate statement

Plans for a state-federal partnership to reduce global warming.

Michael Marsland

Michael Marsland

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a "declaration on climate change" at a Yale conference focusing on the role of state governments in addressing global warming. View full image

It wasn't a standard governmental policy speech. Forty years ago, declared the speaker in Woolsey Hall on April 18, both bodybuilders and environmentalists were considered "weird fanatics." But today, he went on, everybody works out at the gym, and green doesn't mean "hand-wringing and whining," but "hip, cutting-edge, forceful, self-confident, and even sexy."

In this case, the keynote speaker of a conference on global warming actually knew something about hip: he was California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of four governors who showed up for a two-day conference focused on the role of state governments. Another 14 did not attend but added their names to a "Governors Declaration on Climate Change" that calls for a state-federal partnership to reduce global warming, continued support for state-based climate action plans, and incentives for "meaningful and mandatory federal and state climate action."

Conference organizer Dan Esty ’86JD, a professor at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, says the gathering marked the 100th anniversary of a conference of governors called by President Theodore Roosevelt to address the need for land conservation. Roosevelt's policies were heavily influenced by Gifford Pinchot, Yale Class of 1889, who founded the Yale School of Forestry—the nation's firstand became the first director of the U.S. Forest Service.

Also addressing the conference was Nobel Prize-winning environmental scientist R. K. Pachauri, who suggested that if the world is to confront climate change successfully, governments must put a price on carbon emissions. "I hope the developing world does not emulate what developed countries have done," he said. Pachauri added that if he were to make a single recommendation to individuals, it would be: "Eat less meat." (Pachauri, who has taught at the environment school, returned to the campus five weeks later to receive an honorary doctorate at commencement.)

But it was Schwarzenegger who fired up the crowd. "We don't wait for Washington, because . . . Washington is asleep at the wheel," he said. "America has to lead, and we are doing so even without Washington." His Woolsey Hall audience gave him a thunderous standing ovation.

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