Political Notebook

Jerry Brown’s climate warning: ‘We are talking about extinction’

Gov. Jerry Brown prepares for an interview on the roof of a TV station in Rome on July 21, 2015.
Gov. Jerry Brown prepares for an interview on the roof of a TV station in Rome on July 21, 2015. dsiders@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown, in an ominous appeal on climate change, said Tuesday that the world may already have “gone over the edge” with global warming and that humanity must reverse course or face extinction.

“We don’t even know how far we’ve gone, or if we’ve gone over the edge,” Brown said at a climate summit at the Vatican. “There are tipping points, feedback loops, this is not some linear set of problems that we can predict. We have to take measures against an uncertain future which may well be something no one ever wants. We are talking about extinction. We are talking about climate regimes that have not been seen for tens of millions of years. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.”

Brown, addressing dozens of mayors and other local government officials from around the world, issued his typical criticism of Republican politicians and business interests skeptical of climate change, calling them “troglodytes” to predictable applause.

Brown went beyond his partisan rabble-rousing, however, quoting balefully from St. Paul’s biblical message to the Galatians.

“God is not mocked,” Brown said, “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Brown is at the Vatican amid stepped up efforts to coalesce support for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The summit here was called by Pope Francis following the release of his encyclical on climate change last month.

“We have to respond, and if we don’t the world will suffer, we will all suffer,” Brown said. “In fact, many people, millions are suffering already.”

Some scientists argue the world is unlikely to reduce carbon emissions enough to constrain rising temperatures, urging greater investment in adaptation measures.

Brown, standing in 97 degree heat on the roof of a television studio across town shortly after his address, said “we’ll do all the adaptation.”

“But if every year things get worse,” he said, “our goose will be cooked.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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