Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown appeals to ‘moral dimension’ on climate change

In this photo published on Twitter by Nancy McFadden, who is Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, Brown, McFadden and Anne Gust Brown attend Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Officiating was Monsignor Laurence Spiteri.
In this photo published on Twitter by Nancy McFadden, who is Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, Brown, McFadden and Anne Gust Brown attend Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Officiating was Monsignor Laurence Spiteri.

Gov. Jerry Brown, in Rome for climate talks this week, said Monday that the world must turn to the “moral dimension” to counteract a “virulent strain of climate change denial” from Republicans and business interests.

“Right now we’re stuck,” Brown said in an interview after attending a private Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and meeting with Adolfo Nicolás, the Jesuit leader here. “The world is not taking the steps it needs … to de-carbonize the economy.”

The Democratic governor, a former Jesuit seminarian and longtime champion of environmental causes, has stepped up efforts to coalesce support for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in Rome, he is assuming the role of booster for a higher-profile figure, Pope Francis. Brown and Francis, who released an encyclical on climate change last month, are scheduled to address local government officials at the Vatican on Tuesday.

“If the political and the business sectors are inadequate, then the moral dimension has a very important role to play,” Brown said. “And that’s what the pope’s doing, and I’m hoping it will lead other religious leaders to have their own conferences and their own ways of communicating the importance of protecting the environment.”

Many conservatives say the effects of climate change are overstated, or that the costs of addressing it are too high.

Francis called for swift action to address climate change in his encyclical, which is displayed for sale alongside stalls full of souvenirs outside the Vatican.

“The pope speaks out of a 2,000-year-old tradition,” Brown said. “People will look to that, and it will have influence.”

For his part, Brown said he will “say my piece and forge some alliances.”

“Because the other side, the Koch brothers are not sitting still,” Brown said. “They’re raising money, they’re supporting candidates, they’re putting money into think tanks, and denial, doubt and skepticism is being spewed through various media channels, and therefore the sincerity and the authority of the pope is a welcome antidote to that rather virulent strain of climate change denial.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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