LOS ANGELES — Portraying California as the front line of climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that the effects of man-made global warming were devastating the state, drawing a direct link between climate change and both the record-setting drought that has left the state parched and the early-season wildfires across California last week. He declared that people must find a way "to live with nature, not collide with it."
Saying that California was at "the epicenter" of the effect of climate change, Brown said states and nations in general were "not on a sustainable path" when it came to global warming and the harsh weather patterns and other problems it brings.
"We have to adapt because the climate is changing," Brown said in a speech to scientists gathered in Sacramento for a conference on the drought's effect on state agriculture. "Now there's no doubt that the evidence has been strong for quite a while, and it is getting even stronger."
Brown has made battling climate change one of the centerpieces of his tenure, traveling as far as China to marshal support for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He has pressed for continued enforcement of the state's cap-and-trade program, which places limits on emissions from major polluters, despite some critics' calls to scale back amid the weak economy. He has repeatedly criticized Congress for not doing enough to take action.
Brown is at the forefront of governors nationwide who are grappling with ways to deal with climate change through legislation and infrastructure changes, rather than waiting for coordinated efforts from the federal government. Governors from states including New York, Washington and Maryland are pushing for ways to combat what they say are dangerous threats to their states' economic and environmental future, citing worries of rising sea levels, drought and snow melt.
Eight states have passed legislation calling for the reduction of carbon emissions in the coming decades, though none with plans as ambitious as California. Nine states in the Northeast and California have adopted cap-and-trade policies for the largest greenhouse gas-emitting industries.
Some East Coast leaders have also sounded alarms: In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has praised proposals to improve state utilities to reduce emissions and also begun to issue warnings to investors in the state that climate change poses a long-term risk to the state's finances.
In an effort to start "aligning our economy and our way of life in California with the demands of nature as we now understand them scientifically," as Brown put it, he intends by 2025 to have 1.5 million electric cars on California's roads — a fraction of the state's 32 million vehicles, but a big step nonetheless. The goal will require cooperation from other states to encourage the purchase of such vehicles.
Brown added that the state was only "1 percent" of the problem globally.
"We have to get other states and other nations on a similar path forward," he said.