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Other governments should align with California climate change initiatives, governor says

September 1, 2014

Los Angeles, London - California Governor Jerry Brown says that climate change must take centre stage in the civic dialogue of America, and could prove a key issue in the 2016 US presidential elections. A long-term advocate for environmental initiatives, Brown explores the economics of curbing greenhouse gases, the challenges of gaining support to achieve this from Republicans and religious leaders, and the significance of California’s high-speed rail project in an exclusive interview with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE

In an issue dedicated to California’s many-faceted policy approach to climate change, Jerry Brown spoke with the Bulletin’s editor John Mecklin. Brown detailed increasingly stringent building regulations, steps to encourage renewable energy since the 1970s, moves to integrate the state’s electricity grid, and the deployment of a cap and trade initiatives—all efforts toward reducing California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and then 80 percent below those levels by 2050. Californians are on track to attain one third of their power from renewable sources by 2020, Brown says:

“This comes at a cost but of course climate change is also a cost…we need the rest of the world to come along with us. My strategy is to keep California at the forefront but to do everything humanly possible to bring other states and other nations into alignment with what proper climate change policy requires.”

Brown hopes that religious leaders of all faiths will use their influence, just as they did with the evolution of slavery and the civil rights movement in the past. Their holistic view, he suggests, means religious leaders are more likely to see the error of pitting individual technologies and nations against the environment, which sustains us all. However in terms of US politics, Brown questions whether the political process can absorb or entertain the truth about climate change, mentioning propaganda from those with either financial or doctrinal interests, as another factor in delaying government moves to reduce our carbon footprint.

Brown believes that the majority of Republicans are “under orders” not to engage with the climate change agenda:

“Right now there’s only a handful of Republicans at most who can even utter the words 'climate change' in anything but negative terms. They’re all under serious discipline to keep mum on climate change or to attack it. Now, I don’t think that can withstand the scientific evidence as it rolls out over the next five to 10 years.”

California has long encouraged a reduction in vehicle emissions through its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program. Now there are plans for a high-speed rail system – the first of its kind in the US – capable of carrying millions of passengers between the state’s major cities, with a significant part of its electricity coming from renewable energy. Brown adds that this improved transport link, currently scheduled for 2029, will allow denser, less vehicle-dependent housing en route. Making more journeys by train as opposed to car or plane is an important step towards reducing emissions.

“It’s going to become clearer and clearer that we both have to mitigate and adapt,” says Brown. “And in that respect, California is in the forefront.”


Jerry Brown is in his third term as governor of California and widely viewed as a favorite to win a fourth term in November. He's also been the California secretary of state, the state attorney general, chairman of the state Democratic Party, and mayor of Oakland. A long-term political force in the state, Brown has been an advocate for innovative environmental initiatives—including many that influenced national policy—since the 1970s.

John Mecklin’s interview, “Jerry Brown: Climate change policy in California—and beyond,” is published in the latest issue of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Select articles, including this piece, from the issue will be free to access from a limited time here:

Members of the media are eligible for complimentary subscriptions. To receive, please send your media outlet information to:


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists informs the public about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. Scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project established the Bulletin in 1945.

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