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Citing Gravity Of Climate Crisis, 'Governor Moonbeam' Launches California Satellite Proposal

California Gov. Jerry Brown, and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, leave the high-tech battery-operated San Francisco Bay sightseeing boat, Enhydra, Sept. 13, 2018.
Associated Press
California Gov. Jerry Brown, and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, leave the high-tech battery-operated San Francisco Bay sightseeing boat, Enhydra, Sept. 13, 2018.
Citing Gravity Of Climate Crisis, 'Governor Moonbeam' Launches California Satellite Proposal
Takeaways From Climate Summit, Including Gov. Brown's Satellite Proposal GUEST: Carolyn Beeler, environment reporter, PRI's the World

The pledges commitments and bold plans came fast and furious from politicians and business leaders at last week's climate summit in San Francisco. For example Gov. Jerry Brown announced a plan for California to build and launch its own climate satellite. But it remains to be seen if the climate goals can be met by cities counties and states without the major backing of a national effort. A scientific paper released during the summit outlined the drastic steps needed in the near future to keep climate warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Joining me is Carolyn Beeler environment reporter with Piara eyes the world. And Carolyn welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. Was the summit in direct response to President Trumps plans to pull out of the Paris Accords. It was Gov. Jerry Brown announced this summit just weeks after President Trump from the Rose Garden at the White House announced that he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement. So this was Jerry Brown's way of saying we're still in. So even if the US federal government is not going to act on climate change there are still a lot of cities and towns that businesses that will. So it was a very symbolic announcement that this month sort of came to fruition with an actual event in San Francisco and about how many cities states and countries and so forth were represented hundreds. I don't have an exact count but there were hundreds. And interestingly it was sort of conceived of as a place where cities trade information with cities on how to you know decarbonise their infrastructure and states talk to states. But there were actually a lot of national and federal level leaders there outside of the U.S. leadership so you had several heads of state from island nations like the Marshall Islands and Fiji. You had environment ministers from the national level from places like Norway and Costa Rica and then a lot of other state and local leaders but it didn't end up just being smaller subnational governments talking to each other. There were a lot of national governments there. Tellingly a large delegation from China China and the U.S. a bilateral agreement between the two of them paved the way for the Paris Agreement and Jerry Brown has sort of really stepped into the void left by President Trump backing away from climate action as it comes to the Chinese relationship. So there was a big Chinese delegation at this summit and it really looks like that bilateral relationship on climate at least was going strong. And I understand there were an awful lot of business and corporate leaders there as well. What's the significance of having those types of people participate. Right. There were the heads of L'Oreal Starbucks sales force of San Francisco company obviously and this is one of the key tenants of Jerry Brown and also philanthropist and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg strategy about climate change. You know it's not just national governments. It's states and cities but also businesses really need to be drivers of change on this. So they made a big point of bringing them onto stage a lot and spurring a lot of announcements about a carbon cutting commitments from these big companies. What were some of the big takeaways from the Climate Summit. Well there are you know hundreds of big announcements that came out about cutting carbon. So ten new states and countries committed to phasing out coal use entirely more than two dozen governments and businesses set targets for zero emission vehicles and 73 cities pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050 which is a pretty big deal. You know that being said this is all about sort of ginning up and do the Avam and everyone sort of looking around and seeing that you know oh this city that looks like me is making this kind of change. Maybe we can do that too. This is not in an international framework like the U.N. system. There's no sort of binding nature or or check ins on this. The hope is that it's a public venue that companies and cities want to stick by these goals when they say them out loud but they're not really binding by nature. Tell us about Governor Brown's proposal for California's own climate satellite. That sort of came at the very end of this climate summit didn't it. Yeah it did and it was it was a pretty big surprise there from within the summit grounds. The conference center and that was his proposal to launch a satellite into space to track and gather data on global warming as the U.S. federal government starts to move funding away from the sort of climate and space monitoring aspects of NASA's program. So the price tag for the satellite and its launch date have been specified yet. So not a lot of specifics there but it's definitely another move on behalf of Jerry Brown of sort of picking up this leadership and in the area of climate change as the federal government is walking away from a lot of the policies that sort of put the U.S. at the forefront of this issue. As I understand it researchers released a paper during this summit that outlined the really rather drastic actions that they say need to be taken quickly to hold climate warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Can these cities and states do this by themselves. I don't think anyone at that summit thinks that we as a human race can get there without national governments. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg released a report showing the progress made by states and cities and businesses in the U.S. so far to getting toward the Paris Agreement goals for the U.S. and so far the cities states and businesses and nonprofit groups. The amount of carbon that they have pledged to cut only gets us about halfway to our Paris Agreement goal. And you know they actually were saying that's great. They were they were touting that as a win. But it shows you that you know when you have only 17 states signed on to this coalition of the willing to cut carbon you're not going to be able to get as much as many carbon cuts as if you would if national level policies like the Clean Power Plan were still in effect. So Jerry Brown in his opening press conference even said you know we're leading the way but national governments need to need to catch up with us. So when do we find out if this was an effective climate summit. Well I think it'll take years to see if all the promises that are being made actually are followed through with. But I think the proof will be in the pudding when it comes to the year 2020. That is the year that national governments are supposed to submit revised pledges for cutting carbon to the UN Framework on Climate Change process. So the Paris agreement requires that countries get more ambitious with how much carbon they're going to cut. And a big goal of this summit was to sort of push countries to be more ambitious in their next set of promises. So I think how ambitious those promises are will reflect on you know if this summit was successful at all and in ratcheting up ambition of these folks like to say I've been speaking with Carolyn Beeler she's environment reporter with PRI's The World and Carolyn thank you. You're welcome.

California Gov. Jerry Brown wrapped up his international climate change summit in San Francisco on Friday with an announcement that’s out of this world: a new satellite to track and reduce climate pollutants.

It’s an idea he first floated just weeks after the 2016 presidential election, amid speculation that the Trump administration could shift its focus away from satellites that observe Earth’s climate.

Back then, speaking to thousands of scientists at the American Geophysical Union’s national conference a convention in San Francisco, Brown recalled that his push for California to launch a satellite back in the 1970s and 80s earned him the nickname Governor Moonbeam.


“I didn’t get that moniker for nothing!” he said as he fired up the crowd. “And if Trump turns off his satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re gonna collect that data!”

Now, just months before he leaves office for the second time, Brown is closing the circle.

“We want to know what the hell’s going on all over the world, all the time,” he told delegates Friday at the Global Climate Action Summit. “So we’re gonna launch our own satellite. Our own damn satellite. To figure out where the pollution is and how we’re gonna end it.”

It’s a public-private partnership between the governor’s California Air Resources Board and a San Francisco-based commercial satellite company. The announcement from Brown’s office did not contain an estimated cost or launch date.

“This initiative will enable us to spotlight the methane, the pollution, and then be able to be in a position to point out those who pollute and then develop the remedies to end it,” Brown said.


Some environmental activists argue Brown’s galactic focus is misplaced, and point to his support for fracking and urban oil drilling.

“While Brown may have been known as ‘Governor Moonbeam’ in the 1970s, he has now morphed into ‘Governor Oil Drill’,” reads a statement from Andrew Krowne, a resident of the San Fernando Valley’s Porter Ranch community that was stricken by a large methane leak from the Aliso Canyon gas field in 2015. The statement was provided by the advocacy group Food and Water Watch.

“There’s plenty of work for him to do on Earth protecting the millions of people sickened everyday by fossil fuel infrastructure,” Krowne added.

Among the many speakers before Brown, former Vice President Al Gore told delegates the world is successfully separating emissions from economic prosperity.

“California has led the way, as is so often the case,” Gore told delegates. “We have the tools we need — we can solve this crisis. So that only leaves the final question: Will we change? And that’s what this Global Climate Action Summit is all about.”

The summit brought together local, regional and national governments from countries throughout the world — along with business and industry leaders.