Science Policy & Funding News

Jay Inslee Campaigns for Presidency on Climate Change Issue

The governor of Washington says that dealing with climate change has to be the country’s number one priority.

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Jay Inslee deplores what he says are President Donald Trump’s “boneheaded policies” that get in the way of dealing with climate change.

“We have to understand right now that the president has to be removed from office if climate change is going to be dealt with,” said Inslee, the governor of Washington and a Democratic presidential candidate.

Inslee gave a keynote address on 20 March at a renewable energy policy forum presented by the American Council on Renewable Energy in Washington, D.C., and spoke with reporters afterward.

“You can’t solve a problem when you refuse to recognize its existence, Inslee said. “And by him continuing to call [climate change] a hoax, he has debilitated our ability to protect Americans’ national security, health, economy, [and] economic growth. He has endangered all of those things, and that’s why we need a new president.”

With many Democratic presidential hopefuls making climate change a top issue, Inslee says that what separates him from the pack is that he has set climate change as the central issue of his campaign.

“I’m the only candidate who has said that defeating climate change and building a clean energy economy has to be the number one priority in the United States. It has to be the first, foremost, and paramount duty. I believe that and I’m the only candidate who’s had gumption enough to clearly and forcefully state that. The reason it’s important is if this is not job one, it will not get done,” he said.

Inslee, who cofounded the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition that currently includes 21 governors, said that the issue is urgent and that there is no more time to debate about climate change.

“We know that we are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and we are the last generation that can do something about it,” he said. “This is the last couple of years that we are going to be able to actually tame this beast, to not have essentially a cataclysm.”

A Reality in People’s Lives

“What was an abstraction years ago is now a reality in people’s lives,” Inslee said. He pointed to the current historic flooding in the U.S. Midwest, recent massive fires on the West Coast, and other incidents of extreme weather.

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that temperature rise to date already has resulted in increases in droughts, floods, and some other types of extreme weather.

However, Inslee said that he sees hope for significant progress on climate change because “Americans are ready to move on this” and because of the environmental and economic opportunities in the growth of the renewable energy industry. He also pointed to the enthusiasm exhibited by youth protesting for climate action and the introduction of the nonbinding Green New Deal congressional resolution that calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions along with economic and environmental reforms.

The Green New Deal has been helpful in getting people to talk about climate change, in having “lifted people’s level of ambition of the scale and scope of building a decarbonized economy,” and in bringing other people—including marginalized communities that may be on the front lines of climate change—into the discussion, he said.

Inslee said that some people have criticized the Green New Deal because of its lack of specificity, among other concerns. “This is pushing the ‘go’ button. And that’s what we need to do,” he commented. “Now we need a whole suite of policies to put meat on the bone.”

Options on the Table

He plans to present details over the next couple of months. Among those details could be further promoting renewable energy, carbon pricing, improved building codes, and nuclear power.

“We have to be open to all low-carbon and zero-carbon potential sources of energy, given the urgency of this effort,” Inslee commented. However, he said that for nuclear power to be viable, the cost has to come down to make it competitive with other sources of energy, adequate waste disposal and safety measures need to be in place, and there must be more public acceptance of nuclear power. “There have to be significant improvements in nuclear to allow it to continue to flourish, but there is research going on that I am supportive of,” he said.

Inslee also said that there also needs to be a level playing field for different types of energy. He said that the fossil fuel industry currently gets billions of dollars of direct government subsidies as well as additional indirect subsidies.

“Older, incumbent industries have a subsidy because they get to use the atmosphere as a place to put the residue of the pollution at zero cost in unlimited amounts,” he said. “Those things need to change.”

—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2019), Jay Inslee campaigns for presidency on climate change issue, Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO118957. Published on 22 March 2019.
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