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California Gov. Newsom says prolonged extreme heat is a wake-up call on climate change

A sign warns of extreme heat in Death Valley, California, U.S., July 11, 2021.
Bridget Bennett | Reuters

Speaking during a heat wave that brought California temperatures into the triple digits in much of the state, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that “all of our models have been thrown out” when it comes to climate change.

“We’ve never seen this kind of extreme heat for this extended period of time,” Newsom said from the Code Conference in Beverly Hills. “And so we have thrown all of the old books and rules and regulations out, and we are moving in a completely different mindset in order to stay a step ahead of Mother Nature.” In Northern California, several cities saw record highs on Wednesday.

Newsom said the heat is putting stress on the energy system during peak hours when many Californians come home from work and turn on their air conditioners. He said alerts advising residents to be cautious of their energy usage are what “saved us” from blackouts, along with energy imports.

Newsom said the state will need to keep improving its efforts to combat and deal with climate change. He said updates the state has made within the recent past are what allowed it to avoid many blackouts this time around.

“Had we not done what we’ve done in the last two years we would have had rolling blackouts over the last week,” Newsom said. “Almost without question.”

He pointed to increased battery storage, extended lifetimes of backup generators and the state’s commitment of $53.9 billion toward climate change solutions.

Newsom also took aim at Texas’ divergent approach to energy, which he characterized as having a greater willingness to rely on fossil fuels.

“I’m not interested in the death spiral that states like Texas are,” Newsom said. “They’re doubling down on stupid.”

“It’s ironic that Governor Newsom is attacking the national leader in energy the same day he barely avoided statewide blackouts,” Renae Eze, press secretary for Texas Governor Greg Abbott, said in a statement.

Despite criticizing red state governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who is thought to be a likely contender for the Republican presidential nomination, Newsom said he has no plans to run for president himself.

“I have no interest,” he said.

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