Sunday, September 07, 2014

Jerry Brown on climate change

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAR) has an interview with California's once, present and future Governor: Jerry Brown: Climate change policy in California - and beyond 08/11/2014 (interview conducted by John Mecklin).

BAR provides this introductory description of the Governor:

Jerry Brown is in his third term as governor of California and widely viewed as a prohibitive favorite to win a fourth 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. That's not to mention a run for the Democratic nomination for president in 1992, or Brown's father, also a multiterm California governor. It's an understatement to call Brown a long-term political force in the state, and he's been an advocate for innovative environmental initiatives - including many that influenced national policy - since the 1970s. [my emphasis]

Quite a record of accomplishment by a genuine progressive politician whose political career isn't over yet.

The interview includes this characteristic Jerry moment:

BAS: I just bring this up because I know you were once a Jesuit seminarian. Recently the Pope has come out supporting action on climate change. Is there any role for religion in turning public opinion?

Brown: Certainly religion had a role to play in the evolution of slavery and the civil rights movement. There's a role to be played by religious leaders in terms of climate stewardship, and given the catastrophic consequences that are certain ... the urgency is certainly there. I certainly would expect and hope that religious leaders of all backgrounds would bring to bear their message as an approach to life that is mandatory - certainly in the message of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, great religions are premised not on destruction or just, you know, trashing the creation, but rather in preserving and respecting nature and the living systems that we're a part of.

So I also think that religions have a more holistic view and therefore are much more likely to see the error of pitting individual technologies and nations against the environment that sustains all nations and all individuals.

Jerry talks about his policies on solar power and electric cares, wind and geothermal energy, and automobile efficiency.

He's somewhat ambiguous about nuclear power's future, but carefully avoids endorsing it as a major part of the solution to climate change:

BAS: What about nuclear power? I mean, there's been sort of a war in the environmental community about nuclear power versus ...

Brown: I'd say nuclear is not on the front burner but certainly as a base-load power, and I think people will have to take a very hard look at that, particularly if technology can make it, you know, more efficient, more reliable going forward.

BAS: So you're not firmly against - you're not an anti-nuker, necessarily.

Brown: No, I'm a pro-greenhouse-gas-reduction person. We have to reduce our climate change, and anything that can work - you know, is efficient and compatible with our way of life and government - we definitely have to think about it.

Now, there are issues regarding nuclear they've got to look at, but certainly climate change is a huge and right now an uncontrolled, mounting challenge. So without anybody minimizing the problems of proliferation or terrorist attack or accident or cost or disposal and storage, you know, I think we have to be open to anything that can get the world off the path to destruction that we're now on.
Based on his environmental record and having some familiarity with his way of presenting things, I read this comment of Jerry's as being a recognition that nuclear power is a major source of energy in the US and other countries and is likely to be so for a long time. But they have major safety problems that have to be taken very seriously.

In the final question, Jerry produces this interesting reflection:

BAS: I run into climate-change deniers all the time. You know, even people who are friends who I think are reasonably intelligent, and they just think it's a liberal conspiracy. How do you change that? How do you get people out of that thinking?

Brown: You know - I don't know. Eventually the facts should win out, but not always. Opinions are not necessarily grounded in truth. People have their own subjective experience that shapes their perceptions, and it's true, there are millions of people who firmly believe that there is no such thing as climate change. And there are hundreds of millions of others who are not even thinking about it. And then there are companies and individuals and propaganda organs that have a specific interest, either financial or doctrinal, in delaying as long as possible the governmental measures needed to reduce our carbon footprint on Earth.

So this is one of the tragedies of our time, that very sincere people and very powerful people and very rich people are convinced that the scientists for the intergovernmental panel [on climate change] and others are engaged in a meretricious effort to feather their nest and fool people.

So you have the people who - there are some that are manipulating it for their profit, and it just takes more people of goodwill to do what they can, whoever they are, in an attempt to turn it around before it's too late. And it's certainly an open question as to how that might unfold.
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