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Brown At Vatican’s Symposium On Climate Change

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Governor Jerry Brown visited Rome to call on mayors from across the world to join California in the fight against climate change.

The Governor was a featured speaker yesterday on day one of the Vatican’s symposium on “climate change and modern slavery.” Pope Francis is scheduled to speak today at the event, and Governor Brown will take to the podium again tomorrow.

Governor Brown’s entire speech from Monday is transcribed below:

“Thank you. I think I’ll take as my text – if I may – some words of Saint Paul to the Galatians, “God is not mocked for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” And what Saint Paul said in reference to God we can also say about God’s creation. We have heard what we’re doing to that creation, what a trillion tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will do. And that text that God is not mocked is not susceptible to compromise, to regrets. It’s inexorable, it’s absolutes. We have to respond and if we don’t, the world will suffer. We will all suffer. In fact, many people – millions are suffering already.

Now, to change the world from a fossil fuel based culture is not easy, but there are plenty of examples where it’s happening. So, I can bring you the example of California, which for many years has been taking on serious environmental challenges. California is now deriving 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and in that source we don’t count nuclear or hydro. Secondly, we have the most efficient buildings, because of our building regulations, in the entire country. As a result, California citizens have saved tens of billions of dollars in energy bills. The same is true for our appliance standards, the most efficient in the country. As far as automobile pollution, we have very strict tailpipe emissions standards. And as a result and because of some changes in Washington, those standards are now adopted as the national standard of America. And that source of pollution is going down, not fast enough but steadily. We also have 40 percent of the electric cars in the United States.

But we’re not stopping there. We also have a commitment. And my commitment is to increase the renewable portfolio to 50 percent of the electricity consumed, 50 percent. And, at the same time, reduce petroleum in cars and trucks by 50 percent in the next 15 years. That’s quite a challenge, but it can be done. The California economy has steadily reduced its greenhouse gas emissions, particularly on a per capita basis, but its economy is growing over the last decade faster than the economy of the United States as a whole. So, there are ways that we can not mock creation or the laws of nature, but live within them. We have to get on the side of nature and not abuse it or go against it.

Pope Francis spoke about the abuse of goods. And what our modern world has seen and has enjoyed is the good of petroleum. We are a petroleum culture. We got here by means of petroleum, on airplanes and cars. Our clothes, the food deliveries, it’s all based on petroleum. So, it’s not a bad, it’s a good. But it becomes a bad when used at the point that seven billion people now have over a billion cars with the coal plants, the oil and the gas. So, we have to make a transition because goods become bads when they are abused and go beyond a certain threshold.

We know the problem. Yes, there are uncertainties, but we don’t even know how far we’ve gone or if we’ve gone over the edge. There are tipping points, feedback loops. This is not some linear set of problems that we can predict. It requires that we imagine down the road in the future and then react.

But right in the middle of this problem we have fierce opposition and blind inertia. And that opposition is well-financed, hundreds of millions of dollars going into propaganda, into falsifying the scientific record, bamboozling people of every country. Television stations, political parties, think tanks, PhDs, university personnel, they form a group of people that is attempting to put a cloud of doubt and uncertainty over the clear science that you heard earlier this morning. So, we have to fight that propaganda and overcome the inertia and the tremendous opposition.

Now, how are we going to do that? First of all, we are going to have to set a clear goal. And that goal is almost unimaginable. One-third of the oil that we know exists as reserves can never be taken out of the ground. Fifty percent of the gas can never be used and over 90 percent of the coal. Now, that is a revolution. That is going to take a call to arms.

And if you look at our national leaders, we’re not going to get there. Mayors, you are at the bottom of this power chain and you’ve got to light a fire if I may use that metaphor – in terms of climate change, it’s probably the wrong one. But we have to join together. It’s not going to happen. We’re not on the road to avoiding the catastrophes that climate change entails, so we have to make a change. This is a real conversion. Using the word transformation – that’s a big word, I don’t like to use it. It’s very hard to transform. I once entered the Jesuit seminary and our goal was to become perfect, a life of perfection. I can tell you, it’s very hard. You don’t get perfect and at the end of the day you don’t feel very transformed. But in this case, we may not transform our being, but we are going to have to transform our use of the goods in the world, namely petroleum. And we can do it.

I ask you to join with California and 19 other states and provinces to make a commitment to live within the no more than two degrees, to get us down to two tons per person. We can do that. By the way, the United States is over 20 tons per person. California, we’re at 12, so we’re a little better. But that’s because we have a lot of sun and we have a very benign climate. But we are suffering in the Southwest from drought and the ravages of climate change already. But keeping it under two is the goal. In Vietnam they only use one and a half tons per person. India is maybe two. So the developed world has put in most of the carbon and we’re going to have to take most of it out. It’s a big challenge. It’s not politics as usual. It’s not going to happen unless major changes happen.

And for the Holy Father to issue that encyclical that’s a change. The role of nature, the interconnectedness of all beings, these are ideas that while implicit, have never been so clear as they have been made in this encyclical. So, let’s take some inspiration from the Holy Father. Let’s take inspiration from ourselves, but don’t be in any way confident or complacent. We have a big mountain to climb. We have very powerful opposition that, in at least my country, spends billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science.

So, that’s all I have to say. When I look at it – I could quote an Italian, by the way, who said – I shouldn’t quote him because he’s the founder of the Italian communist party. But he said, “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” And if we really sense our collective power we can exercise the political will to reverse the trends we’re on and to turn a new chapter in human history and live in compatible ways with other beings, with ourselves, and protect the most vulnerable. And do the right thing.

By the way, the church is not trying to become scientists. The pope isn’t a scientist, but he’s got scientists. And the Pontifical Academies have laid it out pretty clear, so it’s up to us to make it happen, the mayors and the governors. But I’m not counting on the presidents and I’m not counting on any Republican Congress in Washington. So, it’s up to you guys and you ladies. Thank you very much.”

  • Governor Brown Speaks At Climate Change Symposium
  • Governor Brown Speaks At Climate Change Symposium