California Gov. Jerry Brown named executive chairman of group that manages Doomsday Clock

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Thursday, October 25, 2018
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, file photo, California Gov. Jerry Brown gestures during a news conference, in Sacramento, Calif.
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, file photo, California Gov. Jerry Brown gestures during a news conference, in Sacramento, Calif.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday criticized the Trump administration's plans to exit an arms treaty with Russia and called out "bipartisan blindness" toward global nuclear threats after he was named executive chairman of the organization that sets the "Doomsday Clock" measuring threats to humanity.

"When humankind has in its hands the technology to absolutely destroy all of civilization there is nothing so important it ought to prevent dialogue and deep discussion," Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Brown's new role with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will ensure he stays relevant on the global topics he cares most about when he leaves office in January after two separate stints as California governor starting in the 1970s.

The Chicago-based Bulletin was founded in 1945 after the creation of the atomic bomb and in the decades since has expanded its mission to a broader discussion of threats to human survival, including climate change, one of Brown's signature issues.

The Doomsday Clock, moved to two minutes from midnight in January, is a visual representation of how close the Bulletin believes the world is to catastrophe.

RELATED: Trump's feud with North Korea, climate change move Doomsday Clock closer to midnight

Brown, known for thinking big and talking bluntly about threats to human existence, has taken on an outsize role on the global stage as President Donald Trump recedes from U.S. commitments on climate change and, most recently, the nuclear treaty with Russia.

The president announced the U.S. will leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces signed in 1987 with the former Soviet Union. It bans the two countries from making or possessing certain types of nuclear missiles. Trump said Russia has violated the treaty, which Russia denies.

Brown said tearing up the treaty is "not only wrong, it's dangerous - not to say stupid."

Brown has had his own discussions with Russian ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations about the dangers of nuclear proliferation, most recently after a commemoration this month for a historic cemetery in Northern California rich in Russian history, he said. Nuclear threats and climate change are topics Brown frequently raises with foreign leaders who stop by his office while in California.

"I'm not here to represent the U.S. government, that's the president's job, but I am as a citizen of the country, of California, of the world, concerned that these very powerful technologies are not being managed with wisdom," he said.

He also sits on the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and attended meetings of the group in Washington, D.C., this week. While there, he met with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Brown spokesman Evan Westrup declined to provide specifics on the conversation.

Even though the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Russia is frayed, Brown said, focusing on containing and reducing nuclear threats should be a priority. Neither political party seems to view it as one, he said.

"We still ought to realize that ending civilization is a bigger problem than any of the other problems we have with Russia," he said.

As executive chairman of the Bulletin, Brown will preside over the group's three boards - a governing board, a science and security board and an editorial board. It's a new role created just for Brown, and he'll focus on generating global urgency around nuclear and other threats. Brown's interest in the topic harkens back to the 1970s and 1980s when he was running for president.

"We really see him as a global ambassador for the issues that we work on - manmade existential threats, nuclear, climate, disruptive technology," said Rachel Bronson, the group's president and chief executive.

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