Lessons on Leadership and Global Warming


Global warming.  Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it’s real and that we need to significantly change policies on greenhouse gas emissions.  The group, commissioned by over 100 governments including the United States and China, offered a summary of its (1400+ page) report and issued clear warnings in consensus language.  After hour upon hour of debate the heads of the scientists and government officials delivered four critical findings: temperatures are rising, greenhouse gases are almost certainly a central cause, such gases must be reduced, and even with aggressive greenhouse gas reductions we still need to plan for likely unstoppable effects that will devastate many people and regions of the world.*

In a time when we love to attack our leaders, I think it’s worth celebrating some.  Chief among them:  Al Gore.  Yes, he’s one of my kind, a Democrat, but that’s not the point.  The man sure deserves points for courage, creativity, and commitment to his beliefs.  It takes a visionary to quit the only business you’ve ever known, use innovative tools to move a largely inattentive popular culture, and manage to amass and use a huge pile of what Ron Heifetz and Jim Kouzes have both called the “currency of leadership:” he got people’s attention.

Second, we should thank our popular media – yes, thank our media — for putting the issue in front of us.  Last month, Time magazine ran its 8th cover dedicated to the issue.  Where would we be without the media, urging us to look at the science, and trying to help us non-scientists to weigh scientific data?  Fortune this month also dedicated an entire issue to the growth of green business in light of global threats. 

Third, as Fortune pointed out, there are some great environmental leaders in business.  For instance, DuPont — which was the arch-enemy in the days when its Freon product was blowing a hole in the ozone layer – is now deeply committed to going green.  They saved $3 billion in energy costs between 1990 and 2005, even while increasing industrial production by 40%.  Ten years ago would anyone have believed DuPont CEO Chad Holliday would be testifying on Capitol Hill that “prompt action by congress is needed” on climate change?  Fortune received 100 nominations for companies that were seriously committed to green technology; they highlight ten of them in their April 2 issue.**

What is interesting is the interplay among seeming opposites.  The Democrats — and even harder left-leaning thinkers in Europe — and some moderate Republicans have played a major role.  They have forced new rules and are driving for prudent stewardship of the only planet we’ve got.  AND business and scientific innovation are taking over from there, doing what only they can do.  Either without the other – government without business, or business without government — would be like one hand clapping.  Hopefully, together they can get it right.

Perhaps those who seem to oppose you, have something valuable to add, as you

Lead with your best self,


  • As a lifelong resident of Metro Detroit, I am torn between the need to adress the issues of global warming and greenhouse gases, and what I know it will do to the local industrial base. More often, recently, I find myself growing angry at automakers (not just American-based, either) for their nearly complete dismissal of the warnings of the last twenty years regarding this issue. On the other hand, what have American buyers ever done to demand a greener product from Detroit? We do love our comfort on the road. I find myself thinking, “Where is the next innovator coming from? The next Tesla, the next Edison?” And I have to think I am training that young person in my 6th grade classroom. May the educators of the present allow great creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to flourish!

  • The enviro-political complex, which includes Al Gore and the media, should not be congratulated for shouting down opponents and pretending debate on the issue is closed. Thankfully, the BBC-produced The Global Warming Swindle is a program that brings within the grasps of the too easily media-influenced population the voices of scientists that disagree with human-caused global warming.

    Simply repeating something over and again doesn’t make it true. Appearing on the cover of Time doesn’t make something true (remember the coming ice age was a Time cover story too).

    Dan, the folks you’re congratulating are already congratulating themselves and are now preaching to what may be a cult choir. As you discussed before, the preachers are playing to the Amens and not the hey-wait-a-minutes.

  • The only swindle associated with global warming and the BBC was that atrocious psuedo-documentary that promptly caused one of the people interviewed to denounce the way his comments were twisted and didn’t reflect what he actually said or meant.

    You’re right. Simply repeating over and over again that global warming doesn’t exist doesn’t make it true. In fact, it makes you look mighty silly.

    Dan, I’m very glad to see someone else laud not just Al Gore’s sense of passion on this issue, but also his sense of optimism. At a time when it’s popular to denounce solutions before trying them out, it was inspiring to see him before Congress affirming a deep belief in the American spirit and sense of ingenuity. That it came on the same day that our petulent child of a president was throwing a hissy fit because he can’t play nice with Congress is a stark reminder of how badly the nation screwed up in 2000.

    • When Al Gore sells his mansion and starts to practice what he preaches, perhaps he can be more convincing. Right now he appears to talk out of both sides of his mouth.

  • Ignoring for a moment that Gore purchases carbon offsets to reduce his carbon footprint, the impact that any one individual has on the global climate crisis is negligible. Whether Al Gore pollutes or not, significant public policy changes are needed to address this problem. Blaming individuals is a cheap way to escape our collective responsibility to the world we inhabit.

    As the recent Gingrich/Kerry debate showed, there is a clear consensus that climate change is real. The argument isn’t over whether or not global warming is happening — it’s about what we should do to address it.

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