“This is not the new normal,” he said, employing a phrase that state leaders have used to describe the past two deadly, prolonged California fire seasons. “This is the new abnormal, and this new abnormal will continue certainly in the next 10 to 15 years.”
He spoke a day after President Donald Trump wrote a message on Twitter that seemed to blame California government for the 2017 and 2018 wildfires that wiped out parts of Santa Rosa, Redding and now Paradise.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump wrote.
Brown earlier Sunday asked the Trump administration to make a major disaster declaration, which would free up federal resources for emergency relief.
Brown said at a press conference that forest management alone would not spare California from the kind of expansive, deadly fires that are unfolding today. He connected the fires to man-made climate change, which is expected to yield longer droughts and extreme weather conditions in California.
Brown did not say the president’s name but twice alluded to the text of Trump’s tweet.
“We have a real challenge here threatening our whole way of life,” he said. “We’re going to have to invest more and more in adaptation. It’s not millions. It’s billions and tens and probably hundreds of billions (of dollars).”
The outgoing governor has made climate change a signature issues for his second run leading the state. In September, he announced a plan to develop a state government satellite that would track weather patterns and gather data on climate change.
He has also nurtured the state’s cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions program and signed laws that compel utilities to use more renewable energy sources. His final state budget included billions of dollars for programs that would encourage residents to buy zero-emission vehicles, cull dead trees from forests and work to reduce carbon emissions from a range of industries.
Trump has sent mixed signals about climate change. He told 60 Minutes in October that he was not sure if climate change was caused by mankind, and that he did not believe that preparing for it was worth the potential harm to certain industries.
Brown at his Sunday press conference cast climate change as an existential threat to California communities. “Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change, and those who deny that definitely are contributing to the tragedies that we are witnessing and will continue to witness.”
The governor could not say whether California National Guard soldiers currently deployed to assignments near the Mexican border would be recalled to fight fires. “They’ll go where they need to go,” he said.
Trump late last month ordered an additional 5,200 active-duty troops to the border. Brown in April agreed to a Trump administration request to send 400 California National Guard soldiers to the border.
“Definitely fighting fires is a higher priority than that business on the border,” Brown said.