NEWS Politico: Jerry Brown’s holy war on Donald Trump


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For the piece in Politico, click here.

VATICAN CITY — Cal­i­for­nia has opened a new front in its war on Don­ald Trump — the Vat­i­can, where Gov. Jerry Brown on Sat­ur­day sought to enlist the Catholic Church in his effort to under­mine the president’s cli­mate poli­cies abroad.

Brown, address­ing a somber gath­er­ing of sci­en­tists, politi­cians and reli­gious lead­ers here, rebuked Trump’s rejec­tion of main­stream cli­mate sci­ence as a “lie within a lie,” urg­ing reli­gious estab­lish­ments to help “awaken the world” to efforts to reduce green­house gas emissions.

The con­spic­u­ous repu­di­a­tion of the pres­i­dent, in this cen­ter of Chris­ten­dom on the eve of this week’s inter­na­tional cli­mate talks in Bonn, Ger­many, served to under­score Brown’s role as one of the most promi­nent fig­ures in the anti-​​Trump resis­tance. But it also high­lighted California’s deep antipa­thy toward the pres­i­dent on a global stage, ally­ing the nation’s most pop­u­lous state with the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity against the back­drop ofsim­mer­ing ten­sion between the White House and Pope Fran­cis on cli­mate change.

The pope, who did not appear at the con­fer­ence, implic­itly crit­i­cized the pres­i­dent in Octo­ber for with­draw­ing from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, a deci­sion that weighed heav­ily over the gathering.

Brown wasn’t the only Cal­i­forn­ian empha­siz­ing the Amer­i­can divide over global warm­ing — or the state’s deter­mi­na­tion to blaze its own trail on the issue. Ral­ly­ing the same audi­ence the pre­vi­ous day, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­tic state Sen­ate leader Kevin de León cast California’s lead­ers — and not, explic­itly, Washington’s — as the “faith­ful stew­ards of God’s creation.”

Daniel Kam­men, the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, pro­fes­sor who resigned nois­ily from his role as sci­ence envoy to the State Depart­ment in August, called Trump’s elec­tion America’s “exis­ten­tial cri­sis” and encour­aged efforts to impeach him. And Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­tic Con­gress­man Scott Peters said the rel­a­tively large pro­por­tion of U.S. Con­gress mem­bers who are Catholic is “one rea­son why Pope Fran­cis’ com­mit­ment to mak­ing envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship a pri­or­ity of his papacy has such a poten­tial to affect Amer­i­can cli­mate policy.”

The meet­ing, hosted by the Pon­tif­i­cal Acad­emy of Sci­ences, pre­ceded two weeks of cli­mate talks in Bonn, where Brown and lead­ers of other Demo­c­ra­tic states will seek to per­suade the world’s nations that wide swaths of the United States remain com­mit­ted to the Paris agree­ment. Trump’s with­drawal from the pact has cast a cloud over the upcom­ing gath­er­ing in Germany.

Still, California’s Demo­c­ra­tic gov­er­nor min­i­mized the sig­nif­i­cance of Trump’s with­drawal from the accord, say­ing the deci­sion helped focus pub­lic atten­tion on the issue.

In com­par­i­son to world­wide efforts to address cli­mate change, Brown said, “The Trump fac­tor is very small, very small indeed.”

Instead, Brown called for a fun­da­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion of people’s way of life.

It’s not just a light rinse,” Brown said. “We need a total, I might say brain­wash­ing. We need to wash our brains out and see a very dif­fer­ent kind of world.”

Yet the Catholic Church’s abil­ity to move Amer­i­can pub­lic opin­ion on cli­mate change remains in doubt. For one thing, rela­tions between Trump and the spir­i­tual leader of America’s more than 50 mil­lion Catholics remain cool after Pope Fran­cis crit­i­cized Trump on issues rang­ing from cli­mate change to immi­gra­tion to refugee resettlement.

The state of rela­tions between the pope and Trump is not good and has never been good,” long­time Vat­i­can ana­lyst Iacopo Scara­muzzi said in an email. “They are openly at odds on almost every point, from per­sonal style of life to issues as cli­mate change or migra­tions, from atti­tude towards China, Iran or Cuba to the con­cept of ‘peo­ple’ and ‘populism.’”

While the pope’s encycli­cal on the envi­ron­ment served as an inspi­ra­tion for nego­ti­a­tions in Paris two years ago, many cli­mate activists hoped lob­by­ing by a pop­u­lar reli­gious fig­ure might also nudge pub­lic opin­ion on cli­mate among con­ser­v­a­tives in the United States. There is lit­tle evi­dence that has happened.

Fol­low­ing the encyclical’s release and the pope’s 2015 U.S. tour, researchers at the Yale Project on Cli­mate Change Com­mu­ni­ca­tion found a short-​​term increase in the num­ber of Amer­i­cans who said cli­mate change was a “moral,” “social jus­tice” or “poverty” issue. Soon after, how­ever, they found pub­lic opin­ion returned to pre-​​encyclical levels.

It was him com­ing to the Untied States, where he got 24–7, wall-​​to-​​wall cov­er­age …. we saw a sig­nif­i­cant impact on pub­lic opin­ion,” said Anthony Leis­erowitz, direc­tor of the Yale Project on Cli­mate Change Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. “We also found that six months later, that effect had faded away.”

Bob Inglis, a for­mer Repub­li­can con­gress­man whose pro­gres­sive views on cli­mate change con­tributed to his defeat in a South Car­olina pri­mary in 2010, said of the pope’s encycli­cal, “I do acknowl­edge that it hasn’t exactly — it hasn’t yet turned into the barn burner that I had hoped that it might have been.”

For con­ser­v­a­tives, Fran­cis may be an imper­fect mes­sen­ger, con­tro­ver­sial for his rel­a­tively pro­gres­sive views not only on cli­mate, but on mar­riage and immi­gra­tion. The pope and Trump traded jabs dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last year about Trump’s pro­posal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico bor­der, and Trump announced his with­drawal from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment just days after a visit in which the pope handed him a copy of his encycli­cal, Laudato Si.

I’ve got a Catholic friend in Con­gress who will go name­less, who told me that, and he was only halfway jok­ing, that he thinks this pope is the anti-​​Christ,” Inglis said. “There’s a con­tin­gent of Amer­i­can Catholics who really think that the pope has left the reservation.”

Inglis said he is opti­mistic for the long-​​term effect of the pope’s advo­cacy on cli­mate change, as the issue is taught in local parishes and other reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions. Cli­mate activist Bill McK­ibben said the Catholic Church is “one of those bureau­cra­cies through which things work their way kind of slowly,” and he said its effects will likely per­co­late for years.

But Fran­cis is also suf­fer­ing in Amer­ica from a prob­lem that he shares with Trump: a declin­ing base. Though about 1 in 5 Amer­i­can adults are still affil­i­ated with the Catholic Church, their num­bers are in decline. A sur­vey last month from the Pew Research Cen­ter found a major­ity of U.S. adults do not think it is nec­es­sary to believe in God to be moral. And regard­less of reli­gious affil­i­a­tion, cli­mate change has failed in recent elec­tions to reg­is­ter a top level of con­cern for most voters.

Jim Nichol­son, the for­mer sec­re­tary of Vet­er­ans Affairs and Repub­li­can National Com­mit­tee chair­man who served as ambas­sador to the Holy See under George W. Bush, said Trump’s rela­tion­ship with the Vat­i­can “got off to a ragged start” but has improved steadily and is now “pretty good.” He cited Trump’s nom­i­na­tion of Cal­lista Gin­grich, the wife of for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, to be ambas­sador to the Holy See.

There are obvi­ous dif­fer­ences on some sub­jects, like cli­mate and immi­gra­tion and the death penalty, always. But there’s an awful lot of align­ment in val­ues — reli­gious free­dom and traf­fick­ing and life,” he said.

Trump has said he is with­draw­ing from the Paris agree­ment because it puts the United States “at a very, very big eco­nomic dis­ad­van­tage.” But he heart­ened many reli­gious lead­ers with his appoint­ment of Neil Gor­such to the U.S. Supreme Court and his oppo­si­tion to fund­ing for non­govern­ment orga­ni­za­tions that per­form abortions.For many reli­gious vot­ers, said Mitch Hes­cox, pres­i­dent of the Evan­gel­i­cal Envi­ron­men­tal Net­work, mat­ters such as abor­tion and Supreme Court nom­i­na­tions carry more weight at the bal­lot box than cli­mate change.

The prob­lem is that [cli­mate change] is not on the radar screen of the rea­sons they vote yet at this point in time,” Hes­cox said. “That’s my job, is to help them to see why it is as impor­tant as being pro-​​life. Our No. 1 mes­sage is that cli­mate change is a pro-​​life issue.”

Cli­mate experts stewed through­out the Vat­i­can meet­ing over global cli­mate pro­jec­tions they described as “hor­rific,” “ter­ri­fy­ing” and “depressing.”

Brown, who left the Vat­i­can for an 80-​​minute meet­ing with Arturo Sosa, the supe­rior gen­eral of the Jesuits, said Sat­ur­day night that he is “going around enlist­ing allies” in the bat­tle over cli­mate change.

What it all comes down to is we’ve got to act sooner, and we have to act more deci­sively, and that’s not hap­pen­ing,” Brown said. “There’s real hor­ror in store for us if we don’t take action.”

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