Gov. Jerry Brown, arriving in Brussels after collegial events in Germany, sparred publicly with British politicians when confronted over his climate change record at the European Parliament on Wednesday.
Steven Woolfe, a British politician on the parliament, was first to pierce the pleasantries, accusing Brown of supporting state intervention “at a huge scale” and spending and increasing taxes “like it’s going out of fashion.”
Brown’s climate change policy, he argued, isolates the state from much of the U.S. Woolfe dismissed California’s cap-and-trade carbon market as a “tax-and-spend” policy. And he teased the governor as potentially being interested in joining the European Union.
“I am sure you are well-meaning in wanting to protect the environment,” Woolfe said. “But do you not recognize that the policies you are implementing help the rich more than the poor, and make the poor suffer in the long-run?”
David Coburn, another British politician on the parliament, was similarly critical of the governor, offering rare rebukes of a state leader whose Democratic Party dominates in California.
Brown, taking the microphone during the day’s final session in Brussels, did not mention either man by name, but jabbed at them generally. Brown suggested that while the British have a great education system, “obviously” learning the King’s English “quite well,” they were “dead wrong” on the issue of climate change not being a threat.
“Having crocodile tears you shed for the poor are not convincing, not convincing at all,” Brown responded to the full room.
At that moment Woolfe interjected, offering to Brown that “I have a lot of concern for the poor, sir” and twice urging him to “take that back.”
“That’s disgraceful,” Woolfe added before the presiding officer banged down his gavel, insisting that the politician not interrupt Brown, “our guest.”
Brown listened and scrawled notes for well more than an hour as parliament members pelted him with other questions on everything from human migratory patterns, the health of elephants and restricting the consumption of meat as a way to protect the planet.
While many lauded Brown’s approach, contrasting his aggressive handling of the climate challenge with President Donald Trump’s past remarks about the warming planet being a “hoax,” and his threats to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accords, Brown appeared far less interested in answering the flattery than he did in taking on those he described as the climate “denialists in the room.”
“Even the Trump administration couldn’t with a straight face curb a report that underscores the very opposite of what you denialists have expressed here,” Brown said, noting the release of a recent report warning of the impact of climate change.
“These are credentialed, serious, respected scientists, and they are telling us exactly what (other organizations) have said.”
Brown argued the increased denial of man-made climate change was backfiring. “The people, instead of growing in their skepticism, are growing in their conviction that climate change and global warming are real matters and we have to deal with them.”
And he concluded that those who will suffer the most if climate change goes unchecked are the poor.
“You want to just say all these scientists, ‘OK, we don’t believe them?’ ” Brown asked. “That’s a very risky operation.”