Jerry Brown: California Drought Shows 'Climate Change Is Not a Hoax'

The governor has issued new water restrictions that require state residents to cut usage by 25 percent.

California governor Jerry Brown looks on as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Computer History Museum on March 5, 2014 in Mountain View, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The debate has not yet dried up, even if California has. 

Two months after members of the U.S. Senate took jabs at one another on the subject of whether man made global warming was actually occurring, California Governor Jerry Brown said that the unprecedented drought and newly enacted water restrictions in his state show that "climate change is not a hoax." 

The implications for the rest of the country, which relies on California for a substantial portion of its food, could be profound, Brown said. 

"Well, there is a global market in—in many food commodities and that will tend to set the price," Brown said on ABC's This Week. "But remember, the weather that's happening in California, that weather will be reflect and show up in other parts of the world. And I can tell you, from California, climate change is not a hoax. We're dealing with it and it's damn serious."

Cities and towns in California must now reduce water usage by 25 percent, and residents who do not comply could face fines. 

"The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past,” Brown said on Thursday when announcing the new restrictions. 

Asked how the state planned to enforce the new restrictions, Brown told This Week that the mechanism was already in place. 

"Each water district that actually delivers waters—water to homes and businesses, they carry it out. We have a state water board that oversees the relationship with all these local districts. There are hundreds of them," Brown said. "And so if they don't comply, people can be fined $500 a day. The districts can go to court and get a cease and desist order. There's—the enforcement mechanism is powerful in a drought of this magnitude, you have to change that behavior and you have to change it substantially."

Last month, Brown lashed out at those who question the science of global warming, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, saying that opposition to President Obama's efforts to curb carbon emissions “borders on the immoral.” 

California is entering its fourth year of drought, and Brown's water restrictions have been criticized because they target residents rather than the state's farming industry.

The agriculture industry is “not watering their lawn or taking long showers,” Brown said Sunday. “They’re providing fruits and vegetables of America to a significant part of the world.”

As part of the executive order issued on Wednesday, the agriculture industry will be required to report more usage information to regulators.

California is the U.S.'s largest agricultural producer, with farm production valued at $48.8 billion in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About 40 percent of the state’s water is used for agriculture, 10 percent for urban use and 50 percent for environmental uses, according to data from the Public Policy Institute of California. The nine million acres of irrigated farmland represent about 80 percent of human water use in the state, the institute says.

“Anybody who’s wasting water, not using the latest technology, that’s not very smart,” Brown said. “But farmers are getting zero allocation from the federal central water project. And that’s a big deal. That hasn’t happened before.”

The USDA has said that the ongoing drought is likely to have a major impact on the state's agricultural production. "Because California is a major producer in the fruit, vegetable, tree nut, and dairy sectors, the drought has potential implications for U.S. supplies and prices of affected products this year and beyond," USDA said in an assessment of the drought on farm and food industries.

 —Michael B. Marois contributed to this article.