Columns

Jerry Brown: Leaders 'Equally as Blind' on Climate Change as Those Who Started 'Similar Horrors' of World War I

California Gov. Jerry Brown talks during a news conference in his office at the Capitol in Sacramento on Nov. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

California Gov. Jerry Brown said that the world leaders who converged in Paris for Armistice Day this past weekend are “equally as blind” as the “totally stupid” leaders who created World War I because “similar horrors are being generated on a longer-term basis” by climate change.

Brown said that after Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom takes his place in Sacramento, “I want to keep bringing this to people’s attention because I think the leaders of the world are asleep” about climate change fueling the state’s deadly wildfires and causing other calamities.

The Camp Fire in Butte County, north of Sacramento in California’s Gold Rush country, has claimed the lives of at least 42 people, according to Cal Fire incident stats today. The blaze, which started Thursday, has destroyed 6,522 residences and 260 commercial buildings, making it the most destructive fire in the state’s history as it ripped through Paradise, Calif., at a speed of 80 acres per minute. It was 30 percent contained today at 125,000 acres. The cause is still under investigation.

The Woolsey Fire has torched 96,314 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties after starting on Thursday, and was 35 percent contained today. The blaze resulted in the evacuation of Malibu, reaching the Pacific Coast Highway. There have been two fatalities and 435 structures destroyed including several celebrities’ homes.

Thousands of firefighters battling the blazes include assistance sent by seven states, which contributed dozens of engines apiece that are either on scene or en route.

Brown told CNN International today that “only a couple” of people are unaccounted for in Southern California, but “many” are still missing in Northern California.

“The threat now is greater in the south because the nature of the dry winds. And this whole thing comes about because the vegetation, the trees, the soil, the dirt is all warmer, it’s dryer. There’s not as much moisture, water in the environment. And therefore, when these winds come and there’s a spark, these fires just take off and they move very rapidly from one spot to another and people have very little time to react,” he said.

Brown said the fire season “fits in well what the scientists have been telling us” and “when I say the scientists, I mean well over 90 percent of scientists in general and 100 percent of those who look at the southwest in this Mediterranean climate that we have, and it’s not just California, it will be throughout the country and throughout the world.”

“So, temperatures are going up, probably significantly even in the next 10 years, and that drying, warmth, lack of moisture, the effect on wind velocity, all of that is going to bring about more — unfortunately and tragically more of what we’ll be seeing — what we’re seeing today and you’ll see more and more of that on a regular basis,” he added.

President Trump tweeted early Saturday, “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Brown said that there’s misunderstanding about forest management, because “just pulling out all the trees can create even more dryness, and lack of moisture and lack of water, it could contribute to the fire.”

“Number one, there are many factors and, number two, the largest management area is under the direct jurisdiction of the president himself,” he added.

The governor said that for “over 10,000 years California could only support about 300,000 people; today, we have over 40 million,” and “there are not native peoples moving from the mountains to the sea and back again depending upon the time of the year; people are getting very fixed in fixed dwellings all over the place.”

“So, yes, we need to look at our planning, we need to revise it but you’re talking about the entire state, you’re talking about modern civilization. We’re in a world — we’re in a configuration that may not be, and certainly in some respects, is not compatible with the natural environment by way of fires, winds and the topography of the way the state is constituted,” he said.

“We sometimes with the modern world and all the conveniences and the instant coffee and grocery stores make it look that we’re out of the woods as it were, well, we’re not, we’re embedded in a very fragile or dangerous and sometimes very hostile environment.”

Brown lamented “an entire Republican Party that is virtually in denial” about climate change making natural disasters more intense.

“What you’re seeing in California is the new abnormal. You will see it in Europe, you will see it in Russia, you will see it in China, you will see millions of refugees from Africa because the heat will unbearable. And we’re not talking 50 years, we’re talking 10, 15, 20 years and these events come about in ways we never expected,” he said.

“And I want say, they all got together there in Paris and they didn’t say much about World War I when all these great leaders of Europe and America were totally stupid in what they did, they create a horror and they didn’t see it,” the governor concluded. “Well, those similar horrors are being generated on a longer-term basis by the same leaders who are equally as blind, I have to report and that’s very tragic.”