Policy: Environment & Energy

Brown: California at 'epicenter' of climate change

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Photo - Richard Gray, left,  joins others in a demonstration calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to end hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, outside the auditorium  where Brown spoke about climate change at the University of California  Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics conference in  Sacramento, Calif., Monday, May 19, 2014.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Richard Gray, left, joins others in a demonstration calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to end hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, outside the auditorium where Brown spoke about climate change at the University of California Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics conference in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, May 19, 2014.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is at the "epicenter" of global warming and other climate change, with the state experiencing longer fire seasons, rising sea levels and droughts that threaten agriculture, Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday.

The governor made his remarks during a conference about climate change, as California was mopping up from a string of wildfires in San Diego County that caused more than $20 million in damage.

The event also came as scientists warn that higher temperatures will lead to more frequent and intense wildfires throughout the West, and after scientists confirmed that the huge West Antarctic ice sheet is beginning to collapse and could boost sea levels as much as 12 feet.

Brown said California has had almost twice the number of forest fires this year compared to normal levels, and the fire season is now 70 days longer than it was historically, adding that "we've got to adapt because the climate is changing."

The Democratic governor said Californians drive almost 1 billion miles a day at the same time the state is aggressively trying to reduce carbon emissions. He said making the switch to a culture that is less dependent on burning fossil fuels won't be easy.

"To make that transition, it's going to take political will, it's going to take investment, and it's going to take the support of the people in the state and ultimately the people in the country, because we can't do it alone," Brown said.

The state Legislature approved California's landmark global warming law, AB32, in 2006. It aims to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 partly through stringent air pollution regulations that business leaders say make the state less competitive.

The law already has shaken up the state's industrial sector, costing it more than $1.5 billion in pollution permit fees.

"That is an enormous challenge, but California's actually committed to moving down that path, of aligning our common way of life in California with the demands of nature as we now understand them scientifically," Brown said.

Lawmakers in the state capital are debating whether to include $250 million in revenue from cap-and-trade pollution credits to help pay for a bullet train, as Brown wants.

About a dozen protesters rallied outside the auditorium where Brown spoke, urging him to end hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas and chanting, "We're going to beat back his frack attack."

Californians Against Fracking said in a news release that new fracking technology is "opening up huge new sources of dirty oil in California's Monterey Shale formation to extraction and combustion, threatening the state's leadership on climate."

Sabrina Lockhart, spokeswoman for Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy Future, which supports expanding oil drilling in California, countered that opening up the Monterey Shale to fracking will ensure more of the oil that Californians use complies with its rigorous environmental standards while the state seeks alternative sources of energy.

Brown often cites his plan for the $68 billion high-speed rail system linking Northern and Southern California as a way to reduce carbon emissions, but he did not bring up the project on Monday.

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