Atmospheric Sciences News

California’s Governor Promises to Fight for Science

Scientific efforts must ratchet up in the face of rising climate change denial, Governor Brown said to a roomful of scientists.

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It’s time to stand up, unite, and fight for science—that was the message California’s governor Jerry Brown had for a convention hall packed with scientists and press this morning at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

“Some people need a heart attack to stop smoking. Maybe we just got our heart attack,” Brown said, referring to the recent threats against Earth and climate science as a new administration gathers in Washington. “This is a long-term slog into the future and [scientists] are there, the foot soldiers of change” and collaboration, he said.

A Friend in California

“We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight. California is no stranger to this fight.” Brown said. “California will continue in support of research.”

The Golden State has long been a leader in enacting environmental policy. In 2012, Governor Brown signed into law the nation’s strictest vehicle emissions standards, which called for a 75% reduction of smog and a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Shortly after the law was signed, these standards became national. “California drove the United States,” Brown said.

Two years ago, Governor Brown also signed into law a bill to create a strategy to reduce short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon (toxic particles that cause respiratory problems), fluorinated gases (which contribute to ozone layer destruction), and methane (a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide). The bill calls for a 50% reduction in black carbon emissions, a 40% reduction in methane, and a 40% reduction in fluorinated gases by 2030.

From phasing out plastic bags to promises to clean up California’s air, the state plans to remain a beacon for environmental policy based on sound science. “If anyone in Washington starts picking on researchers, you can be sure you’ll have a friend in California, and all the legal talent we can bear,” Brown said.

Science Is “Not a Joke”

Brown also touched on the role that extremely biased news publications play in muddying scientists’ efforts to communicate the dangers of climate change. For example, when he pledged to reduce methane emissions in California, Breitbart, a self-described source for the white nationalist “alt-right” group, “talked about cow farts,” Brown said.

“Everything is reduced from seriousness to just a joke. Well, it’s not a joke,” Governor Brown said. “This is about real life, this is about real people, real science, and [scientists] are the custodians of that aspect of our lives.”

The governor also referenced his old moniker, “Governor Moonbeam,” from his gubernatorial term in the 1970s, bestowed on him when he proposed that California launch its own Landsat-type satellite. He said that the new administration has threatened to turn off some of the satellites that monitor Earth’s atmosphere and surface and lightheartedly joked, “If Trump turns off [the] satellites, California will launch its own damn satellites.”

Governor Moonbeam is back, and he’s here to ramp up scientific engagement. He told scientists, “It’ll be up to you, as truth tellers and truth seekers, to mobilize all your efforts to fight back.”

A full recording of Brown’s speech is available on the American Geophysical Union’s Facebook page.

—JoAnna Wendel (@JoAnnaScience), Staff Writer

Citation: Wendel, J. (2016), California’s governor promises to fight for science, Eos, 97, https://doi.org/10.1029/2016EO065045. Published on 14 December 2016.
Text © 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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