Lights Out on Climate Change


Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, didn’t let a power outage deter him from an address at the second Governors’ Global Climate Summit convened in Los Angeles last month.

As if to illustrate the consequences of growing energy consumption or make a symbolic gesture of energy efficiency, participants at the summit contended with darkness for more than an hour on Oct. 1 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Los Angeles. The summit site was part of a city block in the Century City district that lost power for a portion of the afternoon.

Haymet was among the speakers in a panel discussion on climate change implications for the oceans that began shortly after the outage. Haymet and other panelists who had prepared PowerPoint presentations were forced to do without, but Haymet drew laughter from an audience of more than 100 with his hasty substitute illustration:  an upwardly pointing arrow drawn in ball point pen that he used to depict the trend of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and of acidification in the oceans.

“The blackout didn't stop us from getting an important message across that we need to take care of our oceans and the countries most vulnerable to changes within them,” said Haymet. “The anecdotes from some of our panelists, particularly those in low-lying island countries, were just as illustrative as anything we could have projected onto a screen.”

Panelists included Dessima Williams, Grenada’s ambassador to the United Nations and an advocate for low-lying countries most immediately threatened by sea-level rise. In addition, Gwendolyn Garcia, the first female governor of the Philippine province of Cebu, described her island’s success at protecting its coastline.

Convened by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for the second time, the summit drew governors, premieres, and mayors from around the world. In addition, scientists and celebrities such as Harrison Ford and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman took part in summit talks.

The summit drew a written pledge from 30 subnational government leaders such as Garcia to work together to address climate change in support of their mutual economic and security interests.

Sign Up For
Explorations Now

explorations now is the free award-winning digital science magazine from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Join subscribers from around the world and keep up on our cutting-edge research.