Brown: Global Warming Skeptics' “Cult-like”

Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger team up at San Francisco conference

It's not a sequel to "Twins."

But it is an unlikely-looking political duo.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown are headlining a climate change conference at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Brown, who spent much of his first year embroiled in California's budget fiasco, wasted no time today changing the subject. tossing a rhetorical bomb at skeptics of climate change.

"The main thing we have to deal with in climate change is skepticism and denial, and the cult-like behavior of political lemmings that would take us over the cliff," Brown said, to the delight of  his invited audience.

Brown further stirred the crowd, pointing to what he called powerful wealthy forces "that want to crush any effort to cope with climate change."

California has long been an activist state on this issue, taking on Detroit by adopting stringent tailpipe emissions, passing a law that requires one third of the state's energy to come from renewable resources by 2020, and embracing stringent emission rules meant to reduce industrial pollution.

Then-Governor Schwarzenegger signed a landmark anti-global warming bill, AB32, in 2006 that imposes complex rules on businesses, including a cap and trade system in which companies buy and sell pollution credits.

Brown's support for all of this is certainly not inconsistent.  In fact, it's probably a big reason that Schwarzenegger took no steps to criticize Brown during last year's campaign for governor.

But Brown's aggressive remarks today, labeling critics of global warming science as "cult-like", will provoke everything from eye-rolling to genuine worry from many business leaders.

Schwarzenegger liked to talk, during his governorship, about how protecting the environment and the economy were not mutually exclusive.  

As 2012 nears, corporate and business representatives remain focused on what can be done to nurture California's stumbling economic recovery.   Brown's combative remarks, and his belief that "denial" is dangerous, will complicate his tenuous relationship with business groups.

It's a big risk for Brown, as he pursues support for his pension reforms and his tax package next year. But it won't have any effect on his relationship with Capitol Republicans.  There isn't much of one.

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