The state of California is “ready to fight” Donald Trump’s administration and Big Oil over their denial of climate change because it is “at odds with the survivability of our world”, Governor Jerry Brown has told a gathering of scientists.
California could even start launching its own satellites to monitor the atmosphere, Mr Brown said, if the current Nasa programmes were cancelled.
The President-elect, who has bizarrely claimed climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China, has packed his Government with politicians who have links to the fossil fuel industry or are known for denial of the scientific evidence.
Erik Solheim, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, has expressed concern that “some elite American politicians deny science”, adding “you will be in the Middle Ages if you deny science”.
Speaking at an American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, Mr Brown compared the dangers of climate change to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
But also compared the election of Mr Trump to a “heart attack” that might actually help the world wake up to the risk.
“The time has never been more urgent or your work never more important,” he told the scientists. “The danger is definitely rising, the power of a few to disrupt the world has never been greater.”
The Cuban Missile Crisis had taken the world to “the brink of mass destruction, possibly killing hundreds of millions of people, it’s something that almost came to be”, he said. “And now with climate change, we are facing another danger.”
Mr Brown dismissed those who disputed the science and concrete evidence, including a near 1C rise in average global temperatures in little over a century, the disappearance of small islands in the Pacific and the opening up of new shipping lanes in the Arctic, which in a few years will be completely ice free for the first time in about 100,000 years.
“We know the data, we know what’s happening in the world despite the deniers. The climate is changing, the temperatures are rising, the oceans are becoming more acidified, habitats are under stress. The world is really facing this tremendous danger,” he said.
The powerful vested interests trying to stop the world from switching to a low-carbon economy might be about to get a powerful ally in the White House. But Mr Brown said California would resist by championing “honest science” free from any political interference – and sending in the lawyers.
“We are facing far more than one or two or even thousands of politicians. We are facing Big Oil, we are facing big financial structures that are at odds with the survivability of our world,” he said.
“And it will be up to you as truth-tellers, truth-seekers, to mobilise all your efforts to fight back.
“Big Tobacco was pretty powerful, but they lied and they came a cropper, not just with scientists but with lawyers. And, in California, we got plenty of lawyers.
“So we’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers and we’re ready to fight, we’re ready to defend.”
In 1978, Mr Brown suggested California should launch its own satellite. “They called me Governor Moonbeam because of that,” he quipped.
It was an idea he suggested the state might revisit.
“If Trump turns off the [climate monitoring] satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re going to collect that data ... and we do launch, private companies are launching satellites right here,” Mr Brown said.
The election of Mr Trump and the climate deniers’ descent into increasingly ridiculous arguments would eventually produce a backlash based on science and truth, he claimed.
“Some people need a heart attack to stop smoking. Maybe we just got our heart attack and we better start doing the work that it takes to really do what it takes to reduce our climate emissions,” he said.
“We’re not at the point of absurdity yet, but about the time we get there, we’re ready to ride the backlash back to sanity, sustainability and truth.”
There have some who have suggested California should secede from the United States because the political differences are so profound.
And Mr Brown said some of his critics accused him of acting as if he ran his own state.
“A lot of people say, ‘What the hell are you doing Brown? You’re not a country’,” he said.
“Well, judged by measures of gross domestic product … we are the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world and we’ve got a lot of fire power.
“We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the universities and we have the national labs. We have the political clout and sophistication for the battle and we will persevere, have no doubt about that.
“Whatever Washington thinks they are doing, California is the future.”
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