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Jerry Brown: Climate change challenges as serious as those faced in World War II

The outgoing California Democratic governor joined "Meet the Press" for an in-depth discussion about climate change.

WASHINGTON — California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown warned that America and the rest of the world are falling behind in the fight against climate change and likened the challenge to fighting the Nazis in World War II.

In an interview for Sunday's "Meet the Press," the outgoing governor called on President Donald Trump to take the lead in addressing the issue. "Instead of worrying about tariffs, I'd like to see the president and the Congress invest tens of billions in renewable energy, in more-efficient batteries, to get us off fossil fuel as quickly as we can," Brown said.

"I would point to the fact that it took Roosevelt many, many years to get America willing to go into World War II and fight the Nazis. Well, we have an enemy, though different, but perhaps, very much devastating in a similar way. And we've got to fight climate change. And the president's got to lead on that."

President Trump has repeatedly downplayed the importance of addressing climate change during his presidency.

Last month, he brushed aside a federal climate report that warned of a “cascading effect” from climate change that could hurt both the planet and the economy, telling reporters “I don’t believe it.”

Last year, he pulled America out of the international Paris Agreement meant to align the world’s nations toward reducing emissions and curbing the effects of climate change.

And his administration has also rolled back a handful of Obama-era environmental regulations aimed at reducing the impact of climate change.

Trump visited Brown and his home state earlier this year to survey wildfire damage. Brown admitted that while he appreciated Trump approving disaster funding for the state in the aftermath of the fires, he doesn't think he made any progress convincing Trump about the dangers of climate change.

"He is very convinced of his position. And his position is that there's nothing abnormal about the fires in California or the rising sea level or all the other incidents of climate change," Brown said.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire who has made climate change a key piece of his work outside of public office, also lamented Trump's views on the issue.

"It would be a lot more helpful, if we had a climate champion, rather than a climate denier, in the White House," Bloomberg said.

"You know, I've always thought, Trump has a right to his opinions. But he doesn't have a right to his own facts. And the truth of the matter is this country and this world is in trouble.

Trump's lack of urgency on the issue exemplifies the partisan divide on climate change. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this month found that more than 70 percent of Democrats believe climate change is both "serious" and requires "immediate action," but that just 15 percent of Republicans felt the same way.

Overall, people are growing more and more convinced of the urgency of the issue — 45 percent of all Americans said they feel that sense of urgency, the highest since the poll started to ask the question in 1999.

Brown and Bloomberg joined "Meet the Press" for a special edition focused solely on the issue of climate change. Both are among the more prominent political figures who have paid special attention to the issue.

In office, Brown championed a handful of significant measures meant to curb the effects of climate change. Most recently, Californians voted to keep the Brown-supported gas tax despite opposition at the ballot box.

But even Brown admitted that his efforts have been "not even close" to enough.

"Not close in California, and we're doing more than anybody else. And not close in America or the rest of the world," Brown said.

"We've got to get those zero-emission cars on the road. We have to figure out new ways of making cement. We've got to clean up our ships, which are creating more pollution than California and Texas put together. The technology, the investment, the lifestyle changes, the land-use changes, this is a revolutionary threat."