SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Jerry Brown, one of the Democratic Party’s most outspoken critics of Republican climate change policy, said Wednesday he now believes that President Donald Trump is a political “realist” who will likely listen to what Pope Francis, China and other world leaders are saying on the key issue – and that progress under his administration may be “not as disastrous as we thought a few months ago.”
Brown cited Trump’s meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday – and the delivery of a papal encyclical on climate change – as one reason for optimism. Other positive signs: China’s growing efforts to contain pollution and the effects of global warming, and the Trump administration’s approval this week of $657 million for the electrified Caltrain project in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“President Trump is a realist – and there’s nothing more real than the atmosphere and the chemistry that determines our weather and our long-term climate,” Brown told reporters at a climate change conference hosted by the Netherlands in San Francisco on Wednesday. “I don’t know that he’s going to come aboard immediately – but I do know that with our efforts in California, joining with other states and other provinces in the world, that we will be successful in pushing this agenda.
“There will be some bumps in the road,” Brown said. “There’s a great deal of denial – I see that in some of the people [Trump has] appointed. But I’d say the trend is toward dealing with climate change – and I don’t think President Trump will stand in the way of that, ultimately.”
The California governor – who has in the past lambasted Republicans as “luddites” on the climate change issue and Trump as a climate change denier – said he took it as a good sign that the president met with Pope Francis and that the two discussed the issue.
“Don’t underestimate the power of the Holy Father,” Brown said. “The pope is talking about climate change, he’s handing him an encyclical … and there are many conservative leaders in the world who support” efforts to reduce climate change.
The papal encyclical calls for drastic cuts in fossil fuel emissions, and the gift has been viewed as pressure on Trump to not withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
Trump has recently played up his admiration and positive relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Brown noted that the fact that “China is asserting such a world leadership role” in the matter is key. Brown will head to China next month to meet with Chinese leaders “and further that effort … and I don’t think President Trump will want to stand aside as this climate story unfolds.”
Brown also cited the federal funding for Caltrain – the electrification of a commuter rail project that serves tens of thousands of workers daily in Silicon Valley – as a sign of progress, because it comes in spite of objections from GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republican House delegation.
“Obviously, President Trump had a very different view than Mr. McCarthy,” Brown said. While it appeared initially that the project was in danger from the Republican opposition, “that’s the wonderful thing about politics – no matter what someone says today doesn’t mean they won’t change their minds tomorrow.”