A landmark climate change conference starts today in Oberlin, Ohio. The conference will bringing together many of the world's leading thinkers, political figures, economists, investors, philanthropists, business leaders, educators and public intellectuals to discuss the changes needed to "spur a successful transition to a sustainable, resilient, prosperous and equitable economy driven by safe, renewable energy." Oberlin College and The Oberlin Project are hosting After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy from Oct. 6 - 8.
The three-day event will focus on the economic and political realities we face in light of a warming planet. With just one month away from the presidential election, conversation on these issues couldn't be more relevant as we have two candidates with very different plans on how to address climate change.
"The most critical issue we face is climate change," said David W. Orr, the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics Emeritus at Oberlin College and the founder and visionary behind The Oberlin Project. "Climate and energy issues are flip sides of the same coin. We are now in the transition to a very different economy and we don't have a lot of time to get this right.
"October is just one month before a critical presidential election and we need to be heard in that cacophony. The governors are important speakers [at this event] because most of the action on climate change has been at state levels and it is the states who have been the real drivers in climate policy."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, 38th Governor of California: Governor Schwarzenegger made California a world leader in renewable energy and combating climate change with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. He is the founder of The USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, which is committed to advancing post-partisanship to find the best ideas and solutions to benefit the people they serve.
- Bill McKibben, Founder, 350.org: Author and environmentalist McKibben was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the "alternative Nobel," in 2014. His 1989 book, The End of Nature, is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change and has appeared in 24 languages. He is a founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. The Boston Globe has said that he is "probably America's most important environmentalist."
- Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism Solutions: Lovins is president and founder of the nonprofit Natural Capitalism Solutions. A renowned author and champion of sustainable development for over 35 years, Lovins has consulted on sustainable agriculture, energy, water, security, and climate policies for scores of governments, communities, and companies worldwide. She is currently a professor of sustainable management at Bard MBA.
- Bill Ritter, 41st Governor of Colorado: Governor Ritter was elected Colorado's 41st governor in 2006. During his four-year term, Ritter established Colorado as a national and international leader in clean energy by building a new energy economy. After leaving the governor's office, Ritter founded the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, which works with state and federal policymakers to create clean energy policy throughout the country. Governor Ritter's book Powering Forward – What Everyone Should Know about America's Energy Revolution was published earlier this year.
- Michael Brune, President of the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club's executive director since 2010, Brune is one of today's most inspiring and effective environmental leaders. Prior to joining the Sierra Club, Brune led Rainforest Action Network for seven years. Under Brune's leadership, the Sierra Club has grown to more than two million supporters and is at the forefront of the drive to move beyond fossil fuels to clean energy while also protecting America's remaining wild places.
- Mindy S. Lubber, Ceres: Lubber is president and a founding board member of Ceres, a nonprofit organization that is mobilizing many of the world's largest investors and companies to take stronger action on climate change, water scarcity, and other global sustainability challenges. She directs Ceres' Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a group of 120 institutional investors managing over $14 trillion in assets focused on the business risks and opportunities of climate change. Lubber also oversees engagements with more than 100 companies, many of them Fortune 500 firms, committed to sustainable business practices and the urgency for strong climate and clean energy policies.
- Tom Steyer, NextGen Climate: Steyer is a business leader and philanthropist who believes that we have a moral responsibility to give back and help ensure that every family shares the benefits of economic opportunity, education, and a healthy climate. After founding and running a successful California business, he left to work full time on nonprofit and advocacy efforts. He now serves as president of NextGen Climate, an organization he founded in 2013 to prevent climate disaster and promote prosperity for all Americans.
- Mark Campanale, Carbon Tracker Initiative: Campanale is founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, where he is responsible for management strategy, board matters, and developing the capital markets framework analysis. Originator of the "unburnable carbon" capital markets thesis, he commissioned and edited the report "Unburnable Carbon, Are markets Carrying a Carbon Bubble?"
The conference will be the first major event held in the new Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, a state-of-the-art conference center located within The Hotel at Oberlin. The center is on target to become one of the rare LEED Platinum hotels and conference centers, and is the cornerstone of Oberlin's Green Arts District.
Watch the entire conference via this live feed: