Climate change is like war, says Jerry Brown of California

WILLIAMS, CA. – Former California Gov. Jerry Brown lives off the net in retirement, but he is still deeply involved in two issues that gripped him during his rule and are now at the center of the world stage: climate change and the threat of nuclear war.

Brown, 83, who left office in 2019, serves as executive chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which is setting the Doomsday Clock to measure how close humanity is to self-destruction. He is also on the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Brown praised President Joe Biden for not raising the level of the US nuclear threat after Russian President Vladimir Putin made veiled threats to use his country’s nuclear arsenal amid the war in Ukraine. Brown also called on Biden to resist Republican calls for increased oil production as gasoline prices rise.


“It is true that the Russians are making money from oil and gas, but exacerbating this problem by speeding up oil and gas in America would run counter to climate goals, and the climate is like war: if we don’t deal with it, people go to die and they will suffer. Not immediately, but over time, “said Brown, a Democrat.

Brown spoke to the AP last week from his home in the rural county of Colusa, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Sacramento. The land in California’s inner mountain range has been in the Brown family since the 1860s, when his great-grandfather emigrated from Germany and built a stagecoach station known as Mountain House.

The house Brown and his wife Anne Gust Brown, who completed construction in 2019, is called Mountain House III. The house is powered entirely by solar panels and is not connected to any local utilities.

Although Brown withdrew from electoral politics after serving a record four terms as governor of California – from 1975 to 1983 and from 2011 to 2019 – he was virtually absent from public life.


Brown has held talks with John Kerry, Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate change; Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy; and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He also co-chaired the California-China Climate Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, which aims to strengthen collaboration on climate research and technology.

“No matter how antagonistic things are, co-operation is still essential to tackling climate and nuclear proliferation,” he said.

In the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, he presents an important political perspective as scientists consider how to deliver their message, said Rachel Bronson, the group’s president. Last week, he joined the organisation’s science and security board as they issued a statement on Putin’s nuclear threats.

Scientists have decided not to update the Doomsday Clock, which in 2020 was moved 20 seconds forward to set 100 seconds to midnight, the metaphorical time of global catastrophe. However, they warned that Russia’s invasion had brought to life the “nightmare scenario” that nuclear weapons could be used to escalate a “conventional conflict”.


Bronson is pursuing Brown’s leadership role after his governorship ended because of a deep interest in his nuclear work and ability to understand major threats.

“He’s thinking about existential risk,” Bronson said.

In fact, Brown is a thinker on everything from hummingbirds to the very meaning of life and death. He trained to be a Jesuit priest, but eventually abandoned those ambitions to follow his father into politics. Edmund “Pat” Brown was governor of California from 1959-1967.

Jerry Brown has a philosophical approach to life and work, often ready with a Latin phrase or motto to summarize his views. He has long complained that the accumulation of nuclear weapons and climate change have failed to attract enough attention in the face of more immediate concerns – nowadays the coronavirus and inflation.

“We need to have enough bandwidth to look at the big problems, because if they get out of us, we won’t have the small problems to worry about,” Brown said.


He warned that the Republican takeover of the US House of Representatives after the midterm elections this fall, combined with the possibility of the Supreme Court limiting the federal government’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, would make the climate “even more likely”.

Although Brown has long considered the fate of the planet, he may be more connected to it than ever. It receives its power from the sun and water from a well. Fueled by climate change, California wildfires have become hotter, more unpredictable and more destructive in recent years, and the location of Brown’s 2,500-acre (1,012-hectare) ranch makes him live closer to the threat Than ever.

He toured the property on his ATV, studying trees and flowers, determined to learn their names, and in the fall he received friends to help harvest olives he had pressed into oil.

He offered his property as a meeting place for the California Society of Local Plants, Entomologists and Forest and Fire Experts. Last fall, forestry experts issued a statement calling on the state to focus on better forest management to reduce the severity of forest fires. Many of their proposals reflect those pursued by the administration of Governor Gavin Newsom.


Meanwhile, entomologists spent two days at the retreat planning ranch on how to protect insects in California. Brown allowed them to explore his land, and two researchers discovered new species, the ant and the beetle, said Dan Gluzenkamp, ​​executive director of the California Institute of Biodiversity and organizer of the retreat.

Brown joined food scientists to grill them during their research.

“He obviously enjoyed sitting around the picnic table for dinner and having super hardcore conversations with the smartest entomologists on the planet,” Gluzenkamp said.

Sitting in front of his home, Brown said he had recently considered what it would be like to win one of his three presidential campaigns, the last in 1992. He decided he would prefer to be in Colusa County.

“I am very happy where I am – this is a very amazing place. “I can’t imagine being in a better place,” he said.

He then wondered aloud if he could avoid the same mistakes as those who became president. He then quickly considered why a hummingbird that caught his eye was moving so fast from tree to tree.

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Climate change is like war, says Jerry Brown of California

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