Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown talks wildfires with Obama, keeps goading GOP

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks on CNN, shown on a monitor at Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate in Simi Valley.
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks on CNN, shown on a monitor at Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate in Simi Valley.

As the Republican presidential candidates prepared to debate Wednesday in Simi Valley, Gov. Jerry Brown took to CNN – the network carrying the contest – to goad them once again on climate change.

“This stuff is global,” Brown said. “It’s a profound threat to the long-term well-being of the world, and the president – the next president – has to stand up and really take some leadership.”

Brown, a fourth-term Democrat, has leaned on California’s raging wildfires in recent weeks to draw attention to global warming, highlighting links between hot, dry conditions and the severity of fires. In speaking Wednesday, Brown took advantage, too, of national attention on the presidential primary.

Brown, who spoke with President Barack Obama about the fires by telephone earlier Wednesday afternoon, offered a brief update on the situation, saying the federal government is helping California with fire engines, hand crews, helicopters and planes.

But Brown turned quickly back to global warming.

“The climate is changing,” he said. “We have these big threats, and we’ve got to rise up to the occasion of these significant issues that affect our quality of life.”

Brown said he would be watching the debate for a candidate to “stand out from kind of the Republican blather that I don’t think is impressing the undecided or the swing voters.”

Brown’s voice carried over dozens of monitors at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where the candidates were already gathering.

Before the debate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told reporters that Brown has a “very important role right now to help save people’s properties, to put out these fires, to save people’s lives.”

But he said, “The left always likes to use disasters as an excuse to grow the size of government. We shouldn’t let them do that.”

Scientists say rising temperatures have likely exacerbated effects of California’s drought, but climate change carried almost no weight as an issue in the presidential election in 2012, and there is little distinguishing this year’s field of Republican candidates on the subject. They have expressed a range of skepticism, from claims the effects of climate change are overstated to concerns about the cost of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In a public scolding of the Republicans, Brown called unsuccessfully for the candidates to address climate change in their first debate, last month. More recently, Brown sent retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson a letter deriding him for claiming there is no overwhelming evidence that people cause global warming.

Brown enclosed a flash drive with a United Nations report on the issue.

Carson told reporters that he was “already quite familiar with the data.”

“It doesn’t change my opinion, my opinion being that as responsible human beings, we should look out for the environment, and I don’t think we have to make it into a big political issue.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders