Gov. Brown’s climate stance gains some political muscle

Source: Debra Kahn • E&E • Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) showed up at Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate conference to lend his successor some star power

Schwarzenegger, on break from a movie set, said he was transitioning from the entertainment industry back to his former mindset. “At 10 at night I was still on a movie set slamming a guy’s head against a bridge,” he said. “Now I’m sitting here talking about renewable energy and the future of the world and that stuff.”

The conference that Brown convened to address “extreme climate change” focused mainly on emphasizing the nature of the risks. It featured a panel of scientific experts who warned that California faces threats to its electricity grid, transmission lines and water supplies as well as health hazards from heat waves, floods, wildfires and increased precipitation itself.

The experts produced some sobering moments. “Your whole summer by the end of the century … will look like the worst five days [now],” said Maximilian Auffhammer, an associate agricultural and resource economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re essentially going to have peak load conditions all summer instead of having it three to four days a summer.”

But the man who added political heat to the conference was the one Californians called the “Governator.” Schwarzenegger praised Brown for continuing his own climate policies and his tradition of holding climate-themed conferences with international attendees. Yesterday’s meeting included officials from China, Canada and the Netherlands. “I am proud of him that he continues California’s vision and turns these things into reality,” Schwarzenegger said. “He has been a huge supporter of the things he believed in in the ’70s, and he continues with that, and it’s terrific to see that.”

But where Brown took a no-nonsense tack, decrying Republicans’ denial of climate change and invoking the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ assertion that life in the natural state is “nasty, brutish, and short,” Schwarzenegger was more sanguine.

“Let them have those debates, that’s fine,” he said. “I tell the people in Washington, you don’t need to have any debates, just follow California.”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Democratic governor or a Republican governor, we just always kind of kept our policies and looked ahead,” he said. “The more inclusive you are about this, the less you villainize anyone, the better off you are.”

He also tried to pump up enthusiasm for subnational governments’ role in curbing emissions.

“I think California’s the perfect example of what subnational governments can do,” he said. “We’ve got to … not just rely on this worldwide agreement and put all our eggs in one basket.

Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, provided some praise from the federal perspective. “There’s no doubt that in a state like California, which has been such a leader on climate change mitigation, that we should also see California stepping into this leadership role when it comes to adapting and dealing with the impacts of climate change,” she said.