Chances are you wouldn't recognize India's R.K. Pachauri if you walked by him, though - at this moment - he's one of the world's most influential figures.
Mr. Pachauri is chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group of scientists that world leaders view as the ultimate authority on global warming. It shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace with Al Gore for calling attention to mankind's historic tinkering with the atmosphere.
The Great Lakes region has a big stake in how Mr. Pachauri shapes world opinion on this issue, of course.
And not just because it's one of the most vulnerable, whether it's because of higher shipping costs because of increased evaporation, or the prospect of less-productive farmland because of more droughts.
These decisions can affect the region's disproportionate reliance on coal-fired power plants, by far the largest source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Ohio gets nearly 90 percent of its energy from them.
From the moment he's sworn in as president on Jan. 20, the Great Lakes region's own Barack Obama will be under enormous pressure at home and abroad to do more about climate change than President Bush did.
I had the chance to pop a pair of questions at Mr. Pachauri when he was the keynote speaker at the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Roanoke, Va.
The first was about climate negotiations he will preside over, starting with a Dec. 1-12 summit in Poland. That one is to carry on with the foundation laid at last year's summit in Bali, Indonesia, for a new agreement that is to include the United States and 188 other countries.
If all goes as planned, a new era of cooperation will be heralded at the Copenhagen summit planned for late 2009. The Denmark event is to result in an accord that replaces the Kyoto Protocol, a controversial one that 38 industrialized countries signed in Japan in 1997. Kyoto is the agreement Mr. Bush renounced shortly after taking office in 2001, citing its potential impact on the U.S. economy.
Sadness and fury built up in Mr. Pachauri's eyes as he responded to my follow-up question, one in which I asked how Greenland will factor into the Copenhagen discussions.
These words stood out: "You really can't treat human beings as cattle. They can't be taken from one part of the world. Their fathers' and grandfathers' bones are there; their cultures are established in that place, they have a way of life. How can you even think of uprooting them?"
A village or two in Alaska?
Nope. Mr. Pachauri had digressed to Kiribati, a low-lying Pacific island nation he'd visited. Bisected by the equator, it's northeast of Australia and New Zealand.
I had never heard of Kiribati. Which is sort of my point.
It's the world's easternmost nation. The first to enter the new millennium in 2000.
Kiribati has virtually no hope of being around at the end of this century if the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets keep melting and causing sea levels to rise.
"We are facing a gradual dying process," Kiribati President Anote Tong said on an Internet video clip.
How many other Kiribatis are out there, future nations of refugees due in part to our lifestyle?
Sure, we need to maintain our standard of living. But what does that say about us as a nation seeking political change and hope for the future if we just sit back and be thankful their fate is not our own?
Where will all of the displaced people go when there's less land and food is harder to grow, if the world's population increases from 6.2 billion today to 10 billion by 2100?