Jerry Brown: Climate science is real - and world isn't doing enough

Written by Martin Banks on 9 November 2017 in News

The Governor of California told a meeting in Parliament the world faces an “over-arching existential threat” from climate change.

Polar bear cubs | Photo credit: Press Association

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Jerry Brown also countered the scepticism in his homeland about the existence of global warming.

Introducing the American, environment committee Chair Adina-Ioana Vălean pointed out that while the US had endorsed the Paris agreement, President Trump, since coming to office, had pledged to pull America out of the deal.

In his speech, Brown told MEPs that everyone was affected by climate change and he believed the Paris deal had an important contribution to make to tackling the problem.


“We have seen the effects in California where we are now fighting forest fires not just three months of the year but the whole year round. This is due to climate change I believe.

“We are getting extraordinary events around the world that are not normal and it’s not going to get better, but worse. The need for decarbonisation is clear but this will require a transformation of society and our lifestyles in a relatively rapid period of time. The climate science is clear so we have no choice.”

He also took a swipe at those in the US and elsewhere who deny the need for action.

“I am told back home that we need to tackle things like crime, poverty and disease and of course we do but they also question the need to tackle climate change so there is a lot of scepticism to combat.

“There is, in fact, a rising need to tackle climate change but this will need courage. If you asked me if we are doing enough the answer is no and nor are we on track to meet the emission reduction targets.

“In my opinion, civilisation faces an over-arching existential threat from climate change.”

Brown told the committee, “The risk of rising temperature in irreversible ways, with great destruction exacerbating inequality, poverty and migration, is going to happen soon. I am going to COP23 to join other states and provinces throughout the world to push a climate action agenda and to get the job done.”

He pointed to a “whole package” of climate changes measures enacted in California which, along with some other US states, has pledged to defy President Trump and implement in full measures agreed in Paris.

Brown said, “The nature of the threat from climate change is existential, and the level of commitment is not up to the threat. Decarbonising requires a transformation of our whole civilisation, fossil fuels are the basis on which we function today. We are fossil fuel people, carbon people. Even the 2°C goal may not be enough.”

Brown earlier met with environment committee members and EU-US delegation MEPs. He will travel today to the COP23 conference in Bonn.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, opening the debate with Brown, said, “It is of great importance to have this debate today with the leader of a US state, California, which we consider to be a very important regional state in the US and a key player in US politics.”

Vălean, a Romanian MEP, said, “Although the US decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement, an impressive number of US states and cities decided to uphold their share in the fight against climate change”.

She will lead a delegation of MEPs to Bonn to attend the COP23 climate conference this week.

“We are all aware that state-level action alone is not enough. We need to bring together governments on all levels, businesses, academia and civil society in a joint and coordinated effort to meet the ambition we set out in Paris two years ago”, she said.

EU-US delegation Chair Christian Ehler, a German EPP group member, said, “The UN climate change conference started this week with strong, unified calls to hold to the path of the Paris agreement.

“This takes place against the backdrop of this year’s destructive hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, melting ice and impacts on agriculture, which threaten food security.

“For us, it has become more and more important to engage with US states and their top political representatives, given the particular make-up of the US political system, alongside our regular contacts from Congress and the administration”, he added.

Brown was named Special Advisor for States and Regions ahead of this year’s COP23 by Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama - President of COP23 - at a ceremony where Fiji became the latest government to join the Under2 Coalition.

The coalition includes 176 jurisdictions on six continents, collectively representing more than 36 countries, 1.2 billion people and $28.8 trillion GDP - equivalent to over 16 per cent of the global population and over 39 per cent of the global economy.

Brown also created the US Climate Alliance, together with Governor Jay Inslee of Washington and Andrew Cuomo of New York, in response to the U.S. federal government's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement. It currently numbers 15 states, comprising 36 per cent of the US population and $7 trillion in GDP.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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