Jerry Brown faces climate change facts while GOP chases moonbeams

David Horsey: California leads the country into a daunting future of climate change costs

It was once said that California is the place where America’s future gets invented. Now, it is once again leading the way -- this time into a tomorrow of daunting changes in climate. With 100% of the state under various levels of drought, from moderate to extreme, Gov. Jerry Brown says California is “on the front lines” in the battle with global warming.

Appearing on two morning news programs Sunday, Brown discussed the recent wildfires in San Diego County and the lack of water that is devastating some of the most productive farmland in the nation.

“We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature,” Brown said. “In California, we’re not only adapting, but we’re taking steps to reduce our greenhouse gases in a way that I think exceeds any other state in the country. And we’ll do more.

“In the meantime, all we can do is fight all these damn fires.”

During Brown’s first run as governor, from 1975 to 1983, he was often derided as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his Buddhist regimen and his futuristic ideas. In reality, even back then Brown was a fiscal conservative who pursued liberal goals while balancing the state budget. When it comes to climate change, Brown said he thinks it is Republicans who are the dreamy ones, living in “political denial” of the disastrous effects of rising global temperatures.

On Monday, Brown addressed a climate change conference in Sacramento. He talked about the melting Antarctic ice and deforestation in Brazil and how it all ties together to create the extremes of weather that are ravaging much of the United States and rolling up huge new costs for state governments. 

“We have to adapt,” Brown said. “The climate is changing. There’s no doubt.”

And yet, there are doubters and deniers. They include people who explain away storms and floods as punishments from God for a variety of sins -- usually the sins of people unlike them. They also include those who selfishly do not want their short-term economic interests to be impeded by the long-term interests of the nation.

Brown’s message is that denial does not change the hard facts. Brown’s Republican predecessor as governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, championed the same message and now is executive producer of a Showtime series, “Years of Living Dangerously,” that illuminates the climate change realities that too many other Republicans deny.

Perhaps it’s easy for politicians in the cozy confines of the U.S. Capitol to ignore the warming world, but when you’re a governor facing drought and wildfire and massive new expenses, there is no time left to play make-believe.

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