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Fmr. Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown ‘is living off the grid in retirement’ – Warns ‘accelerating oil & gas in U.S. would go against climate goals, & climate is like war: If we don’t handle it, people are going to die’

WILLIAMS, Calif. (AP) — Former California Gov. Jerry Brown is living off the grid in retirement, but he’s still deeply connected on two issues that captivated him while in office and now are center stage globally: climate change and the threat of nuclear war.

The 83-year-old Brown, who left office in 2019, serves as executive chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which sets the Doomsday Clock measuring how close humanity is to self-destruction. He’s also on the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Brown commended President Joe Biden for not raising the U.S. nuclear threat level after Russian President Vladimir Putin made veiled threats to use his country’s nuclear arsenal amid its war in Ukraine. Brown also urged Biden to resist Republican calls to increase oil production as gasoline prices soar.

“It’s true that the Russians are earning money from oil and gas, but to compound that problem by accelerating oil and gas in America would go against the climate goals, and climate is like war: If we don’t handle it, people are going to die and they’re going to be suffering. Not immediately, but over time,” said Brown, a Democrat.

Brown spoke to the AP last week from his home in rural Colusa County, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Sacramento. The land in California’s inner coastal mountain range has been in Brown’s family since the 1860s, when his great-grandfather emigrated from Germany and built a stagecoach stop known as the Mountain House.

The home Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, finished building in 2019 is called Mountain House III. The home is powered entirely by solar panels and is not connected to any local utility.

Though Brown is retired from electoral politics after serving a record four terms as California’s governor — from 1975 to 1983 and 2011 to 2019 — he is hardly absent from public life.

Brown has organized conversations with John Kerry, Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate; Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy; and former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He created and chairs the California-China Climate Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, which aims to boost collaboration on climate-related research and technology.

“No matter how antagonistic things get, cooperation is still the imperative to deal with climate and nuclear proliferation,” he said.

He warned a Republican takeover of the U.S. House after this fall’s midterms, coupled with the possibility of the Supreme Court limiting the federal government’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, would make a climate “catastrophe all the more likely.”

Though Brown has long contemplated the fate of the planet, he’s perhaps more connected to it than ever before. He gets his power from the sun and water from a well. Fueled by climate change, California’s wildfires have become hotter, more unpredictable and more destructive in recent years and the location of Brown’s 2,500-acre (1,012-hectare) ranch has him living closer to the threat than ever.

He zips around the property on his ATV studying the trees and flowers, determined to learn their names, and in the fall he hosts friends to help harvest olives, which he has pressed into oil.