Wildfires Increasing Threat to Planet: Trump Won't Act but California's Governor Just Might
August 14, 2018
Amy Goodman, Michael Mann and Michael Brune / Democracy Now! & Michael Brune / Medium.com &
Even as we deal with the Trump administration's cascade of corruption, the climate-change clock keeps ticking. The math is merciless: If we don't accelerate a phaseout of fossil fuels, today's wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather will seem mild compared to what's coming. We can't count on Washington to tackle this problem. The solution? Take the challenge to the one state that's got the political, moral, and environmental clout to challenge Trump's devastating denial of a visible, existential danger.
Wildfires Increasing Threat to Planet
Experts: If We Don't Stop Climate Change, CA Fires
"Will Seem Mild In Comparison to What's Coming"
Amy Goodman, Michael Mann and Michael Brune / Democracy Now!
(August 9, 2018) -- The Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California is now the largest wildfire ever recorded in California's history. It started burning in July -- the state's hottest month on record. Of the 20 largest wildfires in California history, 15 have occurred since 2000. This year's fires have already burned nearly three times as many acres as the same time last year. Experts say climate change has increased the length of fire season.
In Oakland, California, we speak with Michael Brune, the director of the Sierra Club. We also speak with Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and author of "The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial
is Threatening our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving us Crazy."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And I'm Nermeen Shaikh. Welcome to our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world. We begin today's show in California, where 17 wildfires are raging across the state. The Mendocino Complex fire in Northern California is now the largest wildfire ever recorded in the state's history. It has already scorched more than a quarter of a million square acres and is still burning.
Firefighters say it is expected to burn uncontrollably for the rest of this month and is currently the size of Los Angles. Fires have also forced the indefinite closure of much of Yosemite National Park. Meanwhile, the Carr fire near Redding, California has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and taken at least six lives.
AMY GOODMAN: Of the 20 largest wildfires in California history, 15 have occurred since 2000. Since 2012, there has not been a single month without a wildfire. The three biggest fires currently burning in California all started in July, which was the state's hottest month on record. Experts say climate change has increased the length of fire season. This year's fires have already burned nearly three times as many acres as the same time last year. This is California Governor Jerry Brown.
GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN: We are being surprised. Every year, it is teaching the fire authorities new lessons. We are in uncharted territory. Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven't had this kind of heat condition, and it's going to continue getting worse. I mean, that's the way it is. Some people don't want to accept that and some people just outright deny it. I don't say it with any great joy here. We are in for a really rough ride and it is going to get expensive, it's going to get dangerous, and we have to apply all our creativity to making the best out of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation, not just for California, but for people all over America and all over the world.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile on Tuesday, six youth activists were arrested after holding a sit-in protest at Governor Brown's office to demand action on climate change.
ACTIVIST: We need clean air!
CROWD: We need clean air!
ACTIVIST: No new oil expansion!
CROWD: No new oil expansion!
ACTIVIST: No new gas expansion!
CROWD: No new gas expansion!
ACTIVIST: Jerry Brown, this is your last chance!
CROWD: Jerry Brown, this is your last chance!
AMY GOODMAN: This comes as smoke from the massive California wildfires continues to move north into Washington and east to the central part of the United States. For more, we go to Oakland, California, where we're joined by Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. This week, you wrote a piece headlined Jerry Brown's Last Challenge.
Also joining us, Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University and author of "The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy." We welcome you both to Democracy Now!
Dr. Mann, I want to begin with you. The corporate media is covering the fires in California constantly, and that is very important, but what is rarely mentioned in any of these reports is the connection between the fires and climate change. Can you explain what that connection is? What is happening right now in California?
MICHAEL MANN: Sure thing. In fact, some of the networks have started to connect the dots when it comes to climate change and the role that it's playing with these wildfires. NBC Nightly News the other night did have a segment where they did make that connection.
It is not rocket science, OK?You warm up the planet, you're going to get more intense and longer heat waves. You're going to get drier soils because that heat is baking the soil. It's baking the surface of the earth. So you've got hotter temperatures, you've got drier soils, you've got less winter snowpack, which is less snow falling in the winter in the Sierra Mountains, and the storms are getting diverted north of California.
And we think that that jet stream behavior itself may have a climate change connection. So you put that all together and you sort of have a perfect storm of consequences when it comes to wildfire. You've got all of the ingredients coming together, and so it is not a surprise. It's not a surprise that we are seeing these record wildfires in California, in the Arctic, around the Northern Hemisphere this summer, as a consequence of heat and drought caused by human-caused climate change.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: On Sunday, just hours after the Trump administration declared the California wildfires a major disaster, President Trump tweeted, "California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!"
Then on Monday, Trump tweeted again, "Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of water–Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals." Those were Trump's tweets. Dr. Mann, could you respond to that?
MICHAEL MANN: This is, unfortunately, the sort of diversion that we've often seen from the president, a misdirection. Because the irony here of course is what what we're seeing has nothing to do with environmental regulations. In fact, it's Trump's effort to eliminate environmental regulations and policies to act on climate change which are putting us in a precarious position. These wildfires will only get worse as we continue to warm the planet by burning fossil fuels and increasing the concentration of these warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the Trump administration is doing everything it can to scuttle international efforts and domestic efforts to act on climate.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Michael Brune, could you talk about the state-level response to these wildfires? What has Governor Jerry Brown's response been, and what do you think can happen at the state level, given the Trump Administration's response?
MICHAEL BRUNE: There's really two parts to that question. First is what is the state doing to help to control these wildfires and respond to some of the life-threatening fires that we're seeing across the state? And the response really has been impressive. There are more than 15,000 firefighters putting their lives on the line. There are thousands of families and homes and schools and businesses that are under threat, and the response has been impressive.
The firefighters have all of the water that they need. What they need is some support and they need some respect coming from the president and people in the administration. But the response has been heroic, very brave, and frankly it has been impressive to see the way in which people have come together to fight this challenge in this fire season and the last several fire seasons as well.
These fires are happening in the context of a big debate here in California about climate policy, and there are two policies that are being debated. One is the fact that you highlighted at the beginning of the show, which is that Governor Brown, even though he has been a great leader on promoting energy efficiency and solar power and beginning to take cars off the road and move to electric vehicles, under his watch, more than 20,000 new wells and drilling permits have been issued.
The state is expanding oil production in the state, even as they are scaling up clean energy. So the Sierra Club and hundreds of other organizations and scientists are calling for Jerry Brown to begin a managed phaseout of fossil fuels, reasonably, thoughtfully, over time, to respond to this climate crisis.
And then at the same time, there is also a debate in the state legislature to move the entire state, which is the fifth-largest economy in the world, all the way to 100 percent clean energy. San Diego has committed to go to 100 percent clean energy. San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, large parts of the state at the city level have committed to move to 100 percent clean energy. We're looking to see the whole state get off of all coal, all gas, all fossil fuels and move to 100 percent clean energy as quickly as possible over the coming years.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Brune, you began your piece by saying -- let me just find it because -- well, you can tell us how you began your piece. "If Donald Trump could take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as efficiently as he sucks oxygen out of the news cycle, the climate crisis would be solved faster than you can say 'Mexico will pay for that wall.'" You go on to say, "Unfortunately, even as we deal with the Trump administration's daily cascade of corruption, crudeness, and cruelty, the clock keeps ticking and climate pollution keeps rising. But the math is merciless: If we don't accelerate a phaseout of fossil fuels today, then the wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather events currently plaguing the planet will seem mild compared with what's coming."
Yet, you have as the fires are gaining intensity, in California, the Environmental Protection Agency, now under the former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler -- who has replaced the corrupt Scott Pruitt who you really helped to tank, certainly, your organization, the Sierra Club, by exposing a lot of what he was doing -- the EPA announced last week it's going to freeze Obama-era fuel economy standards at 2020 levels in the latest blow by the Trump administration against efforts to curb catastrophic climate change. Can you talk about what it is Wheeler is doing?
MICHAEL BRUNE: Sure. Well, let me just add one word to what you said. The EPA will try to -- they will try to freeze the US auto efficiency at current levels or at 2020 levels. We will fight them, and dozens of other groups will fight them as well, both in the courts and in the marketplace.
One of the best things that the Obama administration did on climate change, probably the best thing that the administration did on climate change, was to work with the auto industry, to work with states across the country, to work with unions, to increase the fuel efficiency and increase an acceleration towards electric vehicles so that we could save money at the pump, we could save a lot of oil, we could import a lot less oil, and reduce climate pollution.
So of course, the Trump administration is opposed to that and is seeking not only to roll back those protections, roll back all of those savings, but also crucially to eliminate the ability for the state of California and then other states to fight for clean air and to work with the auto industry directly in order to reduce emissions from cars and trucks and SUVs.
So this is something that is being challenged by state attorneys general across the country. It is being challenged by groups like the Sierra Club and many others. We're going to prevail. We're going to make sure that these rules are protected. But it's one more fight that we have with the Trump Administration, which is taking us backwards when you need to be moving very quickly -- very quickly -- in the opposite direction.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Michael Mann, one of the causes that you have pointed to for these extreme weather events that we're seeing today are changes in the jet stream. Could you explain what the jet stream is and how it is changing and why?
MICHAEL MANN: Sure thing. The basic factors are easy to understand here -- hotter temperatures, drier soils, less runoff, less water running off from the Sierra Mountains. Obviously, those create the conditions conducive to these wildfires. But there is this other ingredient that we think is involved here and in this whole array of unprecedented extreme summer weather events that we are seeing over the past month around the entire Northern Hemisphere -- unprecedented floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires.
What is happening here is that these weather systems are not moving along the way they normally do. The jet stream is this band of strong winds that blow from west to east, and if you're flying a jet, it is faster flying from west to east across the United States than in the other direction because you've got that tailwind. So that's the jet stream.
The jet stream also pushes weather systems from west to east. What is happening as we melt the sea ice in the Arctic, believe it or not, what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic. That warming in the Arctic is actually changing temperature patterns in the atmosphere in a way that slows down the jet stream. The jet stream is actually driven by the contrast in temperature from the warm equator to the cold polar regions.
When you decrease that contrast by warming the poles more than the rest of the planet, you slow down the jet stream. Now, there are other physical processes that are involved, but that's really the key process here. And so you have these large meanders in the jet stream, you see the jet stream really wiggling vigorously north and south, and that gives you extreme weather events.
But the added ingredient here is that the jet stream isn't moving along, it's not pushing those weather systems along, so the same locations get rained on day after day or get baked by the sun, day after day. And that's when you see unprecedented extreme weather events like what we're seeing around the Northern Hemisphere this summer. The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out this summer in real time on our television screens.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the "hothouse state"? Yesterday a group of leading scientists warning the cascading effects of melting ice, warming seas, shifting currents and dying forests could push the planet into a "hothouse state." Michael Mann?
MICHAEL MANN: Yeah. That article, it's more of a commentary than an original research article. The basic science that is discussed there is science we have understood for some time. James Hansen, the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, made this point a number of years ago, that if we keep CO2 levels elevated even at current levels and we allow the climate system to equilibrate to those high levels of CO2, then over many centuries, we lose the ice sheets, forests start to migrate, we fundamentally remake the planet and it turns out that can add a whole lot of extra warming. And that isn't always taken into account in these projections you see of the warming we can expect over the next century or so. There's is this longer-term commitment.
Much of that CO2 that we've put into the atmosphere is going to remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. If we keep that CO2 elevated at levels they are now or even higher than they are now, then we could see major disruptions in the climate.
Again, the science there isn't new, but it is important, and what it tells us is not only do we have to cut our emissions dramatically to avoid warming the planet more than a catastrophic two degrees Celsius, 3.5 degree Fahrenheit -- we can still do that; Paris will get us halfway there -- we have to improve on Paris to get all the way there.
We can do that. But it is not enough just to level off those CO2 concentrations. Ultimately, we're going to have to pull that CO2 back out of the atmosphere. If we leave it at current levels for centuries, we will commit potentially to catastrophic changes in our climate.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: You said, Michael Mann, that if emissions are not reduced, we will witness major disruptions in the climate. Would you not describe what is happening now as a major disruption? And if not, then what do you anticipate happening?
MICHAEL MANN: Too often, we allow the problem of climate change to be framed as if there's some tipping point -- there's a certain amount of warming that we go beyond and then, you know, we suddenly have a calamity on our hands. It is much more like a minefield.
We're walking out onto this minefield already, and we are starting to set off some of those mines. But what we know is the further we walk out onto that minefield, the more of those mines we are going to set off. So the only sensible strategy is to stop moving forward out onto the minefield. We've got to go back to where we came from. We've got to bring those carbon emissions down.
Again, the Paris Accord gets us about halfway to where we need to be to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, but we're already seeing dangerous climate change now. If you talk to people in California, if you talk to the people of Puerto Rico, people in Europe, people all around the world, in many respects, dangerous climate change is already starting to arrive. We're on this highway, this carbon highway, and we have to get off at the next available exit.
AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up, Michael Brune, Governor Brown is going to be holding this Global Climate Action Summit in September in San Francisco, and there's going to be a counter summit as well. What are you demanding? What are you saying is most important he do right now? And what about these protests, for example, of the young people, six of them arrested at his office doing a sit-in?
MICHAEL BRUNE: Yeah, sure. Thanks for asking the question. Well, the summit really is well-timed. I'm calling in from Oakland this morning. You can see the fires here in the Bay Area. You can see the smoke from the fires in the Bay Area, even though the fires are a couple hours to the north and to the east of the city.
What we need from Jerry Brown here in the state and leaders across the country and around the world, but what we particularly need from Jerry Brown, is a managed phase-out, a thoughtful and reasonable managed phaseout of fossil fuel production here in the state.
The first thing you do when you want to solve a problem is stop making it worse. We need to make sure that we're focusing both on the demand for clean energy, increasing that as quickly as we possibly can, but also focus on the supply of fossil fuels and reducing that as quickly as we can.
Here in the state, we need to be making sure that we're protecting communities, families, homes and businesses. Many of them live within 300, 400, 1,000 feet of an oil well. We should be phasing those sites out the quickest. Any site that is within 2,500 feet of an oil well, we should be able to phase out the production of oil from those sites as quickly as possible.
And then from a large-scale perspective across the state, let's think carefully -- how do we help the communities that are currently depending on producing oil in the state? How do we make sure that the transition away from oil is one that is good for workers and good for the communities that are economically dependent on fossil fuel production?
We can do this if we're thoughtful, if we're reasonable, if we make sure that we're taking care of the communities and the workers who economically depend on fossil fuels. But it takes leadership. It's going to take leadership from Jerry Brown. And so far, he has been absent on this issue.
And around the world, what we need to see much more of is an aggressive replacement of fossil fuels with clean energy. If the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Texas can do it, and if the Republican city council in Abita Springs, Louisiana or in San Diego, California can say, "We are moving to 100 percent clean energy," then we should be able to see heads of state and leaders of corporations and governors across the country and people around the world saying, "We're going to get off of fossil fuel entirely. We're going to move to clean energy. We'll save money as well as saving lives in the process.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Brune, we want to thank you for being with us, executive director of the Sierra Club, speaking to us from Oakland, California, and Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University. Coming up, we will look at the thousands of California prisoners who are on the frontlines battling the fires. They make a dollar a day. Stay with us.
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Jerry Brown's Last Challenge
Michael Brune / Medium.com
(August 7, 2018) -- If Donald Trump could take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as efficiently as he sucks oxygen out of the news cycle, the climate crisis would be solved faster than you can say "Mexico will pay for that wall."
Unfortunately, even as we deal with the Trump administration's daily cascade of corruption, crudeness, and cruelty, the clock keeps ticking and climate pollution keeps rising. But the math is merciless: If we don't accelerate a phaseout of fossil fuels today, then the wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather events currently plaguing the planet will seem mild compared with what's coming.
We can't count on the federal government to tackle this problem while Trump is in office, but neither can we afford to wait until Trump is out of office. The solution? Take the challenge to a state in which Donald Trump's leadership is so unpopular that he's spent less than 24 hours there since he became president.
A state with a booming economy that is not only the largest in the US but also the fifth largest in the world. A high-tech state that has embraced clean energy and energy efficiency. And, paradoxically, a state that happens to be the nation's fourth-largest producer of crude oil.
I mean California, of course. Nowhere else in the US do we have a better opportunity to show how it's possible to transition from fossil fuels in a way that's smart, pragmatic, and equitable. What's been missing, surprisingly, is the leadership to get started.
That's ironic, because California is still led by one of the most vocal and visible resisters to Trump's retreat from climate action: Governor Jerry Brown. And when it comes to the demand side of climate action (energy efficiency, renewable energy, cutting pollution at the tailpipe) Governor Brown has been a true champion. But when it comes to fighting climate change at the source -- curbing the production of fossil fuels -- it's been a different story.
Normally a pragmatic visionary, Governor Brown has failed to reconcile two key climate facts: California is a major oil and gas producer, and the basic physics of climate science demand that we phase out oil and gas. Although no one expects oil and gas drilling to end overnight, California doesn't even have a plan for how to begin phasing it out. In fact, under Governor Brown's leadership, California has approved more than 20,000 new oil and gas wells. That's leadership -- in precisely the wrong direction.
Here's what Governor Brown said to German policymakers about climate change less than a year ago:
"Let's lead the whole world to realize this is not your normal political challenge. This is much bigger. This is life itself. It requires courage and imagination."
Exactly. The governor has an opportunity before leaving office to not just talk about how courage is needed in others but to show some himself by initiating a thoughtful and reasonable drawdown of fossil fuel production in the Golden State.
Here are three important steps Jerry Brown can take. First, stop approving new wells! You can't begin to solve a problem until you stop making it worse. Second, lay the groundwork for a just transition for oil-producing regions.
Commission an analysis of how the state could help communities in Kern County, the San Joaquin Valley, and elsewhere to not just survive but thrive during a transition to clean energy. Finally, start shutting down the existing oil and gas drill sites that are causing the most harm -- those within 2,500 feet of schools, homes, parks, and businesses.
Los Angeles County alone, which is home to 10 million people, has 68 active oil fields, and thousands of drill sites are within that 2,500-foot boundary. Across California, millions of people are constantly exposed to toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and other compounds that are known to cause respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, nervous system damage, reproductive and endocrine disruption, and premature death. Even if climate change weren't an issue, this should be stopped.
In September, Governor Brown will co-chair a Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The stated goal is to "Take Ambition to the Next Level." Simply supporting renewable energy and defending fuel-efficiency standards is not the next level in 2018 -- it's where we already are.
That's why 26 climate scientists recently sent Governor Brown a letter telling him he needs to commit to phasing out oil and gas production in the state. [See the letter below. -- EAW.]
In June, 109 elected officials from 24 counties in California told him the same thing, as did five Nobel Laureates last week. At this point, anything less can only be considered a failure of leadership when the governor should instead be securing his true legacy as a climate visionary.
Appeal to: Governor Edmund G. Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
July 12, 2018
Dear Governor Brown,
We, the undersigned scientists, strongly support the request of more than 800 organizations that you halt the approval of new fossil fuel projects in California and commit to a plan to phase out California's oil and gas extraction, while providing a just transition for the communities and workers most impacted.
These actions are grounded in science and are necessary to avoid the worst damages from climate change. We urge you to lead the world forward by announcing, before the Global Climate Action Summit in September, that California will confront its own oil and gas production as a critical part of its overall climate policy.
An end to new fossil fuel projects in California is urgently needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and strive to limit temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As you know, limiting temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and reducing atmospheric CO2 levels to below 350 ppm as quickly as possible is critical for avoiding the most dangerous harms from climate
There is more than enough carbon in the world's already developed, operating oil, gas, and coal fields globally to exceed 2°C. Thus, there is simply no room in the carbon budget for any new fossil fuel extraction. Moreover, in order to limit warming to 1.5°C, most of these fields must be shut down before they are fully depleted, even assuming that nonew fossil fuel development is approved.
Climate policies in any jurisdiction that address only demand for fossil fuels will not succeed unless the production of fossil fuels is also limited in line with what the carbon budget demands.
We cannot afford to wait any longer to place science-based limits on fossil fuel extraction. While we appreciate the significant political challenges inherent in championing any climate policy, allowing continued unabated fossil fuel extraction will prevent the world from meeting the Paris climate targets.
California is both one of the nation's top oil-producing states and one of the world's largest and most prosperous economies. California has both the ability and the moral imperative to address fossil fuel extraction. California's crude oil is among the dirtiest and most carbon intensive in the world. Crude oil from California's largest oil fields has higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than most other U.S. and global crudes.
Three-quarters of the oil produced in California is at least
as carbon-intensive as Canada's tar sands crude. However, California has no plan in place to phase out the state's oil and gas production, and currently approves thousands of new wells per year.
New approvals of fossil fuel infrastructure projects such as pipelines, marine and rail import/export terminals, and refinery expansions further exacerbate "carbon lock-in" because such projects require upfront investment, incentivizing continued operation for decades into the future.
Ending the approval of new fossil fuel projects would avoid the lock-in of decades' worth of fossil fuel production and associated emissions. Phasing out California's oil and gas production would also provide critically needed public health benefits.
Scientific research shows that living near oil and gas wells is associated with a higher risk for developing some forms of cancer, increased asthma attacks and more upper respiratory problems, higher hospitalization rates, birth defects, premature births and high-risk pregnancies, and low-birth-weight babies.
And the health harms increase the closer one lives to oil and gas wells. The independent California Council on Science and Technology review panel recommended that California institute health and safety setbacks around oil and gas wells.
In California, 8,500 active oil and gas wells are within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals. These wells are disproportionately located in low income and communities of color, which already suffer an unfair pollution burden.
The state should focus first on shutting these wells down as quickly as possible. California must also move to100 percent clean energy through a just transition that supports the communities and workers most impacted by the fossil fuel industry.
In California, ending new fossil fuel extraction, combined with the phase-out of the 8,500 wells near homes, schools, and hospitals, would avoid the emission of
an estimated 425 million metric tons of CO2 between 2019 and 2030 -- an amount similar to California's annual economy-wide emissions in 2015.
For these reasons, we endorse the request submitted to you in April by more than 800 organizations. We urge you to heed the science and lead the wor
ld forward by announcing a phase out plan for California'soil and gas extraction prior to the Global Climate Action Summit
Steven C. Amstrup, PhD, Chief Scientist, Polar Bears International, formerly United States Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center
Andreas Andersson, PhD, Associate Professor, University of California, San Diego
John Bruno, PhD, Professor, Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Ken Caldeira, PhD, Climate Scientist, Carnegie Institution for Science and Professor, Stanford University
F. Stuart Chapin III, Professor Emeritus of Ecology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Giovanna Di Chiro, PhD, Professor of Environmental Studies, Swarthmore College
Paul Ehrlich, PhD, President, Center for Conservation Biology, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University
Catherine Gautier, PhD, Professor Emerita, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara
Alex Hall, PhD, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles
John Harte, PhD, Professor of Ecosystem Sciences, University of California, Berkeley
Karen Holl, PhD, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
Robert W. Howarth, PhD, Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Cornell University
Anthony R. Ingraffea, PhD, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus, Cornell University
David W. Inouye, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology, University of Maryland
Michael C. MacCracken, PhD, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute, Washington DC, formerly Division Leader for Atmospheric and Geophysical Sciences, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Harold Mooney, PhD, Professor of Biology Emeritus, Stanford University
Sarah E. Myhre, PhD, Research Associate, School of Oceanography, University of Washington
Naomi Oreskes, PhD, Professor, Harvard University
Peter H. Raven, PhD, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden
Carl Safina, PhD, President, The Safina Center at Stony Brook University
Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, PhD, Research Group Leader, Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems, Humboldt University, Berlin
Richard C. J. Somerville, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
Andrew Szasz, PhD, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
Aradhna Tripati, PhD, Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles
Shaye Wolf, PhD, Climate Science Director, Center for Biological Diversity
Erika Zavaleta, PhD, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz
[Extensive footnotes available online.]
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates
Ask Governor Brown To Take "Moral Responsibility,"
Pursue Bold Action to Phase Out Fossil Fuels
SACRAMENTO (July 31, 2018) – Declaring that California has "a moral responsibility to act" and "climate leaders can no longer explore for and exploit new fossil fuels," a group of Nobel Peace Laureates today urged Governor Jerry Brown to freeze new fossil fuel drilling and develop a plan to transition California "away from oil and gas production."
In a letter to the California Governor, the Laureates emphasized the fact that, despite Governor Brown's strong language to raise the alarm on the threat of climate change, California continues to drill wells and engage in destructive fossil fuel extraction. Over the past seven years, the Brown administration has authorized 20,000 new permits for drilling, including wells in sensitive offshore sites along the California coast.
"Climate leadership is being redefined, and we strongly believe you, Governor Brown, can be among those at the vanguard," the letter states. "We know the vast majority of fossil fuels must be kept in the ground. Climate leaders can no longer explore for and exploit new fossil fuels, and climate leaders must have a plan to phase-out production by no later than mid-century.
This transition will be challenging, but by starting now, you have the opportunity to work together with workers dependent on fossil fuel production to ensure they have the agency and support to build livelihoods for themselves in a post-carbon economy."
In their letter, the Nobel Laureates express support for Brown's Last Chance, a campaign endorsed by over 800 health, social justice, climate, and environmental groups calling on Brown to take bold action to freeze new fossil fuel drilling and protect communities from drilling in sensitive areas before the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in September.
Brown is hosting the summit in San Francisco, and it's expected to attract thousands of people from all over the world -- including many who plan to protest his oil and gas policies at the summit.
Signatories to the letter include: Mairead Maguire (Northern Ireland), Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala), Jody Williams (U.S.A), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Leymah Gbowee (Liberia), and Tawakkol Karman (Yemen).
The Spanish language text of the letter can be found at the following link.
Dear Governor Brown,
Thank you for your commitment to action on climate change. As you know, the devastating impacts of global warming are already ravaging the lives and livelihoods of many of the world's poorest and most vulnerable. Your home state has been the epicenter of devastating wildfires and mudslides, and you have been emphatic about the role of fossil fuels in this man-made crisis.
We especially value your aspirations for bold and unprecedented action, as you have said, "Let's lead the whole world to realize this is not your normal political challenge. This is much bigger. This is life itself. It requires courage and imagination."
It is in this spirit that we call on you to become the first major fossil fuel producer to begin a managed and just transition off oil and gas production, in turn protecting the climate, citizens on the frontlines of extraction, and setting a new direction for global climate action.
California is one of the world's largest economies, it is the wealthiest major oil producing economy in the world after Norway, and it has a government and population that have been steadfast in their support for urgent and ambitious action. The state's policies on clean energy and vehicle efficiency and electrification for example have been groundbreaking. But, this is only half of the equation.
Without commensurate action to phase-out fossil fuel production, the struggle for a safer climate future will only become more challenging. Rich oil, gas, and coal producers have a moral responsibility to act. If California, or Norway, or Canada cannot embrace an ambitious path away from fossil fuel production, how can we expect others to?
Climate leadership is being redefined, and we strongly believe you, Governor Brown, can be among those at the vanguard. We know the vast majority of fossil fuels must be kept in the ground. Climate leaders can no longer explore for and exploit new fossil fuels, and climate leaders must have a plan to phase-out production by no later than mid-century.
This transition will be challenging, but by starting now, you have the opportunity to work together with workers dependent on fossil fuel production to ensure they have the agency and support to build livelihoods for themselves in a post-carbon economy.
As Nobel Peace Laureates, we believe that climate change is among the biggest threats to a peaceful future. We celebrate the perseverance and strength of communities in California and around the world who are on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction projects and who continue to fight for their rights to a healthy environment and a safe climate. And we celebrate the women who are driving this change. For meaningful and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis, it is critical that gender equality, human rights, and the rights of indigenous people are central to all climate action.
As decision-makers, community members, and leaders, women are driving this change and it is imperative that this leadership role is embraced at all levels.
We would also like to share our support for, and draw your attention to the Lofoten Declaration, a declaration supported by voices from across the globe calling on wealthy fossil fuel producers to chart a course away from this dependency.
Similar calls are echoed in a powerful letter recently sent directly to you by over 750 civil society organizations from all corners of the world.
As you prepare to host the Global Climate Action Summit in September, we look forward to your "courage and imagination" in setting new precedents for the coming critical years of climate action.
Mairead Maguire, Northern Ireland, 1976
Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Guatemala, 1992
Jody Williams, U.S.A., 1997
Shirin Ebadi, Iran, 2003
Leymah Gbowee, Liberia, 2011
Tawakkol Karman, Yemen, 2011
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