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In a fiery speech, California Gov. Jerry Brown defends climate action and attacks ‘alternative facts’

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
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In his State of the State address Tuesday morning, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) delivered an impassioned defense of climate action while decrying what he described as the Trump administration’s attacks on science and basic facts.

While Brown has previously made waves with comments about his state’s commitment to the issue of climate change, Tuesday’s speech may be among his most defiant yet.  

“The recent election and inauguration of a new president has shown deep divisions across America,” Brown said in his speech. “While no one knows what the new leaders will actually do, there are signs that are disturbing. We’ve seen the bold assertion of ‘alternative facts,’ whatever those are. We’ve heard the blatant attacks on science.”  

The comments imply references not only to doubts within the new administration about climate change and other scientific issues, but also to a recent incident in which both President Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made demonstrably false claims including exaggerated estimates of the size of the inaugural crowd. Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway later dismissed the claims as “alternative facts.”

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As is customary, Tuesday’s address included descriptions of the state government’s work on a variety of policy issues, from immigration to health care. One of the speech’s key points involved efforts to combat climate change, both in California and around the world — including pointed remarks that seem to refer to the Trump administration’s dismissal of the issue of global warming.  

“Our state is known the world over for actions we’ve taken to encourage renewable energy and combat climate change,” Brown said. “Whatever they do in Washington, they can’t change the facts, and these are the facts: The climate is changing. The temperatures are rising — and so are the oceans. Natural habitats everywhere are under stress.”  

Throughout his campaign and up to his inauguration, Trump, along with certain members of his transition team and Cabinet nominees, expressed doubt on multiple occasions about the science of climate change. He and his team have also vowed to roll back many of the environmental policies and priorities set in place by the Obama administration — and with only a few days logged in office, they’ve already made progress in their efforts.  

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On the day of the inauguration, references to climate change disappeared from the White House website, replaced with descriptions of Trump’s energy plan. Later that day, a memorandum from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a governmentwide freeze on new and pending regulations, which would include several Obama-era rules updating energy efficiency standards for a variety of devices and appliances.

On Monday, the Trump administration instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to freeze all grants and contracts, a move that could affect a variety of climate research efforts. And on Tuesday, he signed executive orders intended to revive both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline projects. Trump has also expressed his intent to dismantle several other flagship Obama climate efforts, vowing to do away with the Clean Power Plan and withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

California, on the other hand, has just released a new plan for meeting its own ambitious climate goals, which include reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below their 1990 levels by the year 2030. The proposal includes more investments in clean energy, the continuation of the state’s cap-and-trade program and a new plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from refineries. California released its first reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions in 2006 and has been a front-runner in state-level climate efforts since.  

Brown’s speech Tuesday reflected the state’s continued commitment to climate action and expressed renewed defiance toward those who would argue against the accepted science.

“We can’t fall back and give in to the climate deniers,” he said. “The science is clear, the dangers is real. We can do much on our own and we can join with others — other states and provinces, even other countries — to stop the dangerous rise in climate pollution.”  

It’s not the first time Brown has turned heads with his comments about national politics. In a December speech to the American Geophysical Union, he reiterated the state’s resistance to any efforts to roll back national climate policies, stating, “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers and we’re ready to fight.”

In the same speech, he also addressed comments from a Trump campaign adviser who suggested that NASA climate research could be discontinued under the new administration. “If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite,” he told the audience.

And in Tuesday’s speech, Brown made another plea for a commitment to sound science moving forward.

“Above all, we have to live in the truth,” he said. “When the science is clear, and when our own eyes tell us that the seats in this chamber are filled and the sun is shining, we must say so — not construct some alternative universe of non-facts that we find more pleasing.”

Read more at Energy & Environment:

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