California Gov. Jerry Brown delivered an enthusiastic pep rally-style speech Wednesday in which he positioned the state as "ready to fight" Washington on climate issues.
Brown took a jab at President-elect Donald Trump and his pick to lead the Department of Energy, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, when he spoke to an audience of scientists at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. He said California will aggressively push back on any attempts by the incoming administration to weaken policies on global climate change.
"We've got the scientists, we've got the lawyers and we're ready to fight," Brown said. "If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite."
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Brown, who has embraced the "Governor Moonbeam" nickname given to him by a newspaper columnist in the 1970s, was referring to satellites used to monitor and study Earth's climate. Trump has not said much on the subject of earth-observing satellite programs, but two space policy advisors suggested in a pre-election op-ed piece about plans for NASA that priority would be given to "deep-space activities rather than Earth-centric work."
Trump has voiced mixed signals on whether or how he will try to slow Earth's warming temperatures and rising sea levels, which a federal report said this week is in overdrive in the Arctic. He's tweeted that climate change a Chinese hoax, but in a television interview last week the New York billionaire said he was still "studying" the Paris climate pact to determine whether to pull the U.S. out, as he threatened during the campaign.
When asked about the science of climate change, Trump said, "I'm still open-minded. Nobody really knows."
Since he was elected, Trump has met with prominent climate activists Al Gore, the former vice president, and Leonardo DiCaprio. He's suggested his daughter Ivanka, a close adviser, has a particular interest in the issue and could be his envoy. But he has also tapped oil industry champions for his Cabinet, men who say they're determined to reverse President Barack Obama's efforts to rein in emissions.
California has long been at the forefront of environmental policy, enacting some of the most aggressive standards in the nation. Earlier this year, Brown extended the nation's most ambitious climate change law by 10 years. It expands on California's landmark 2006 law, which set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The new law aims to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
"We will pursue a path of collaboration and bold political advancement -- whatever they do in Washington -- and eventually the truth will prevail," Brown said Wednesday. "This is not a battle of one day or one election. This is a long-term slog into the future and you are there, the foot soldiers of change and understanding and scientific collaboration."
As for Perry, who once campaigned to lure jobs to Texas from California, Brown said the Golden State has an advantage over the Lone Star State in renewable energy.
"We've got more sun than you've got oil," he quipped.
Perry has questioned climate science while working to promote coal-fired power in Texas. Though Perry has close ties to the oil industry, he also oversaw the growth of renewable power in Texas, which became the lead wind energy producer while he was governor.
In 2012, Perry famously called for abolishing the Energy Department, which plays a major role funding clean energy projects. Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. has dramatically ramped up production of renewable energy from sources like solar, in part through Energy Department grants.
Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy policy expert at the University of California-Davis, said Trump's administration is likely to embrace the view of Secretary of State nominee and Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson that engineering and innovation, not government, are the solution. She said the falling cost of clean energy and desire of companies to appear climate-friendly are likely to produce those changes anyway.
"The common denominator looking at Trump's appointments so far is that there's clearly a sentiment that the energy sector is overregulated, and therefore we could probably expect a rollback," Jaffe said. "But I think we're getting to the point where some of these technologies can stand on their own."