LE BOURGET, France — For Arnold Schwarzenegger, the world is like a garage that's filling up with exhaust; if you don't do something quickly, it'll kill you.
The actor and former governor of California spoke with BuzzFeed News at the Paris climate talks Tuesday, one day after he posted a message to Facebook called "I don't give a **** if we agree about climate change." In the message, Schwarzenegger declared that he wants a climate plan and said "a clean energy future is a wise investment."
When BuzzFeed News asked Schwarzenegger Tuesday how he might sell that idea to the American public, he said "what we need to do is talk about what is the problem right now," rather than the long-term impacts.
"That garage is only a symbol of the world," Schwarzenegger said. "Because in the world it's the same thing. Greenhouse gases go up, carbon emissions go up in a year and it kills us. And it kills our lungs, it kills our heart, it destroys our health. And this is why we have 7 million people die every year. So, do you want that to be the world?"
Schwarzenegger went on to say that subnational governments — for example, states and cities — can serve as climate leaders. He described them as "laboratories" that are more agile when it comes to testing climate change strategies.
"We try things out — some things work, some things don't," he said. "Some things that work can be the blueprint for the rest of the world."
The idea of cities and states as climate leaders has been a popular one at this year's climate conference, and an array of local leaders have shown up to share their respective strategies. From the U.S. alone, attendees have included former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, California Gov. Jerry Brown, and others.
Schwarzenegger pointed to Los Angeles, which he said saved money by switching to LED street lights, and Güssing, Austria, which has seen economic benefits after investing in sustainable energy, as examples.
Though he no longer holds political office and (like many attending the talks) has no official role at the negotiating table, Schwarzenegger has been a high-profile attendee in Paris, holding meetings with prominent international leaders and delivering a series of speeches.
After speaking with Schwarzenegger Tuesday in an airplane hanger being used as a conference center, BuzzFeed News accompanied him to a brief speech. At the door, a small mob of people tried to push their way in while several blue-uniformed U.N. security guards formed a human barricade around the door.
Once inside, Schwarzenegger reiterated his call for climate action and his emphasis on subnational governments while a crowd of media took pictures from the front row.
Schwarzenegger has come to Paris as a serious player, but he's still Schwarzenegger. And so his speech, like his Facebook message a day earlier, was a mix of hard data, blunt talk, and humor. And finally, it concluded with an appropriately Schwarzenegger-ian call to action.
It's our moment to pick up the torch, he told the packed room, "and march forward relentlessly...like a Terminator."