Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown warns of climate change, terrorists using nuclear weapons and other ‘horrors that might unfold’

As he prepared to return home from the United Nations climate summit, Gov. Jerry Brown appeared in a Paris lecture hall on Wednesday night, warning of nuclear threats and terrorism and suggesting similarities between the test of climate change and other “horrors that might unfold.”

In a sprawling speech and onstage discussion lasting more than two hours, Brown said work among states and countries on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was forming a habit that could be used to address terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

His remarks, at Paris’ elite Ecole Normale Superieure university, came a month after the terrorist attacks in Paris and a week after the rampage at a social services center in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead.

“We have to be able to imagine the horrors that might unfold, and then be able to take steps to prevent it, delay it, minimize it,” Brown said. “Through this Paris conference, my hope is that these conversations about a horror, which is the radical disruption of the climate, that can pass over into a confrontation, a focusing, a facing of this other great threat, the nuclear danger.”

He said he was concerned not only about whether the United States and Russia could “contain themselves and not start a nuclear war,” but also Pakistan and India and the possibility of terrorists obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“Terrorism killing people is a horror. But terrorists getting nuclear material is even a greater horror. And there are literally hundreds of sites with nuclear materials of one kind or another sitting around, with various degrees of containment or security.”

Brown was joined onstage by the French philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy and the economist Daniel Cohen. About 200 students and faculty members filled the hall.

The meeting outside Paris at which world leaders are negotiating a new climate pact remains unsettled. But the mood around the summit is generally positive, and Brown predicted it would result in a “real commitment.”

He called climate change an “existential” threat, as he has before, but said “the reality of that threat is eliciting … responses that were unimaginable even a year ago.”

He said, “I’m optimistic, with some reservation.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders