Gov. Jerry Brown said in a letter to Republican presidential candidates Wednesday that climate change has turned California forests “into a tinderbox,” invoking raging wildfires in the state to draw attention to global warming in the 2016 campaign.
The issue of climate change held almost no weight in the presidential race in 2012, though President Barack Obama’s announcement of sweeping greenhouse gas reduction measures Monday – coupled with stiff resistance from Republicans – stands to elevate the issue in the upcoming election.
Brown, a fourth-term Democrat, is seeking to coalesce support for greenhouse gas reduction measures ahead of global climate talks in Paris in December. He abandoned his own presidential ambitions years ago, after three failed campaigns. Brown’s letter comes one day before the top 10 Republican candidates meet for their first debate.
In his letter, Brown said California is “hotter and drier than it’s ever been,” and that its fire season, which once spanned six months, is now year-round.
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“Longer fire seasons, extreme weather and severe droughts aren’t on the horizon, they’re all here – and here to stay,” Brown wrote. “This is the new normal. The climate is changing.”
“Given the challenge and the stakes, my question for you is simple: What are you going to do about it? What is your plan to deal with the threat of climate change?”
Brown’s office said the governor submitted that question on the Fox News Facebook page, in which viewers were asked to upload questions that could be featured during the debate.
Republican presidential hopefuls this year have expressed a range of skepticism about climate change, from claims its effects are overstated to concerns about the cost of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say rising temperatures have likely exacerbated the effects of California’s drought, while also contributing to drier forests, increasing fire danger.
Scolding the current field of Republican presidential candidates, Brown listed a handful of Republican politicians who have supported policies to address climate change, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“And lest you think this movement is limited to Democrats and only embraced within our borders,” Brown wrote, “the conservatives in England, the moderates in Germany and even the communists in China are on board.”
“As the fires continue to burn here in California, don’t wait for the smoke to clear,” he wrote. “It’s time to act.”