With the Global Climate Action Summit this week in San Francisco, California is having its moment in the sun, to try out its role in helping world leaders define climate change policies. We wanted to talk with someone who's had a front row seat as California's role has evolved.
Terry Tamminen was Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's chief policy advisor on the environment and the architect of the state's Global Warming Solutions Act, among other big initiatives. He now runs the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a non-profit focusing on conservation and climate change. KQED's Brian Watt met up with Tamminen at San Francisco's Exploratorium, which is hosting a few summit events.
Watt: How did climate change become a big issue for Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was governor?
Tamminen: Well, first of all, people might be surprised to know that the action hero who went around on movies, blowing things up, and in real life driving a Hummer, was actually a committed environmentalist. He grew up in Austria, in post-war Austria, where the cities were still very devastated and dirty, and his family would send him up into the mountains in the summers. So he got a real organic appreciation for nature and then that led to his appreciation for health and bodybuilding and so forth.
When he decided to run for office, he always wanted to focus on environmental protection as one of his initiatives because when he came to California, he had this vision of healthy people running along a beautiful beach with their bronzed bodies in the sun, and was stunned to find air pollution that, as he says, would sting his eyes and his lungs. And he'd run on the beach and step on trash. [Environmental protection] was always something he wanted to do.