In Colorado, Aspen's three-year-old "canary initiative" has already made a cut in the city's carbon emissions. John Worcester, the ski town's mild-mannered city attorney, tells ABC News that he helped found the initiative so that he could "explain to our grandchildren we did what we could."
Another member of the Aspen group, alternative energy consultant Randy Udall, looking down over the town's buildings, whose carbon emissions his group carefully monitors, tells ABC News this is one global problem that requires local solutions -- everywhere.
"A number of cities around the country now have done an emissions inventory," says Udall. "We think this is going to sweep not just the United States, but eventually it will sweep the world."
California and its famous governor are now the biggest and most visible examples of an attitude toward the burning of fossil fuels that polls show a growing number of Americans believe must become universal.
"It's going to take a federal policy. ... We need it yesterday," says global warming analyst and author Susan Hassol, another member of the Aspen group. "In the meantime, everything that's happening at the local and state level is vital. These are laboratories for the federal policies that we will eventually get."
So far, the closest thing to such a policy -- and the vigorous debate a democracy needs to achieve it -- is to be found in California.