Not only is Schwarzenegger leading California to many firsts in climate policy, he’s also leading the way when it comes to talking about global warming.

Any savvy politician knows you can’t get policy on the books without first winning over your colleagues and constituents. And Arnie is surely one of the savviest politicos around. Here’s how he’s doing it:

First, he taps into Californian pride and shared American values, stressing leadership, innovation, and a call to make history:

Our innovation, our science, our knowledge, our creativity is unequaled on the face of the earth … I propose that California be the first in the world to develop a low carbon fuel standard that leads us away from fossil fuels … Let us blaze the way, for the U.S.and for China and for the rest of the world

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Next, the high-wire act. The Governator balances the urgency of the crisis with a buoyant, unflagging optimism.

We are addressing needs that have been ignored for decades. This is important work. It is hard, it’s heavy work. Yes, I know … We can do this because we have the economic strength, we have the population and the technological force …

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He calls for immediate action:

We are not waiting for our problems to get worse. We are not waiting for the federal government. We are not waiting — period. Because the future does not wait … California has taken the leadership in moving the entire country beyond debate and denial … to action.

And he employs strong metaphors that play on our emotions and give us memorable visual images:

For too long California has just stared at this mountain of the future. We couldn’t climb it because our current problems blocked the path. We couldn’t climb it because it was politically too steep. We couldn’t climb it because we couldn’t agree on the route that would take us there. But last year, we made the decision, we took a deep breath and we began our ascent … And one day we will look down from [the top] and say to ourselves … look what we have accomplished for the people.

By the time he’s done, this Republican governor has effectively distinguished himself as one who will act boldly.

The implications are clear. There’s a job to do. There’s no time for procrastination, debate, or denial.

Arnie put it this way:

California has the muscle to bring about such change. I say use it.

He was Mr. Universe, after all.

(All excerpts are from Schwarzenegger’s January 9 State of the State speech. Read or watch the whole thing here.)