Washington Governor Jay Inslee Launches Climate-Focused Presidential Bid
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee entered the 2020 Democratic primary Friday as the first presidential contender to base his campaign primarily around fighting climate change.
"I'm Jay Inslee and I'm running for president because I'm the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation's number one priority," he said in a video announcing his run.
VIDEO: This is our moment, our climate, our mission — together, we can defeat climate change. That's why I'm runnin… https://t.co/8ershFf983— Jay Inslee (@Jay Inslee)1551441619.0
Inslee is the first governor and 13th candidate to enter a crowded primary field, BBC News reported. Of the 13 candidates, five others have embraced a Green New Deal—a plan to transition to 100 percent renewable energy while promoting green jobs and greater equality, The Washington Post's Energy 202 pointed out. But Inslee has a unique focus on climate: it was the only thing he mentioned in the video announcing his run, and he launched his campaign at a solar panel factor, BBC News reported.
"Nobody until Inslee has flatly said, this is my issue," Yale Program on Climate Change Communication Director Anthony Leiserowitz told The Energy 202.
In an interview with Vox, Inslee said it was time for a candidate to do just that.
"The Center for American Progress [Action Fund] did a poll in the first four primary states among likely Democratic voters, and for the first time, they ranked climate change as the number one priority, in a dead tie with health care. This is a pretty significant dynamic. And obviously, it bodes well for my candidacy!" he said.
Inslee has a long-running commitment to sustainability. The League of Conservation Voters called him "our nation's greenest governor." During his two terms as governor, he has worked to promote electric vehicles and ferries, fund clean energy research and pass legislation requiring Washington State utilities to get more energy from renewables. His policies have partly been the reason that Washington ranks just below California in rates of adopting electric vehicle adaption and generating renewable energy, according to The Energy 202.
In 2007, he also co-wrote a book with Bracken Hendricks that prefigures the Green New Deal. Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, argued for a transition away from fossil fuels coinciding with an increase in green jobs. When Vox's David Roberts asked if he endorsed the Green New Deal, he had this to say:
Well, I don't get to vote on it, but I am totally in sync and believe that it is exactly what I have said for decades. I think these aspirational goals are appropriate to the time and the scale. I love the fact that it is embracing economic justice issues as well. I think we have come to understand more about how marginalized communities have been the victims of climate change.
However, some of his constituents say his record does not support his rhetoric.
Zero Hour founder and 17-year-old Seattle climate activist Jamie Margolin was one of 12 young people who sued Inslee, arguing Washington was not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Grist reported. She criticized Inslee for fighting the youth lawsuit, which was dismissed in August 2018, and not listening to indigenous communities when approving a liquid natural gas terminal in Tacoma.
I don’t want to be picking a fight with my Governor. I get 0 out of it. @youthvgov and I have tried to work with hi… https://t.co/wnORbU087Z— Jamie Margolin (@Jamie Margolin)1546536874.0
Inslee has also failed in attempts to pass a carbon tax, both in the legislature and via a voter initiatives, the most recent of which was rejected in November 2018 after oil companies paid a record $30 million to defeat it
In response, Inslee has shifted course and is working with Washington State Democrats to pass five pieces of legislation that would bring state emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 by improving clean fuel and building energy efficiency standards. The Energy 202 reported, adding that his flexibility may be to his advantage:
That kind of nimbleness, moving from one proposal to the next, may be necessary in Washington, D.C., which saw the high-profile failure to pass a cap-and-trade program early in President Obama's first term.
In addition to climate change, Inslee told Vox he was passionate about criminal justice reform, raising the minimum wage, ending the death penalty, protecting net neutrality and reproductive rights. He also wants to end the Senate filibuster, which the Energy 202 pointed out stopped a 2009 cap-and-trade bill from passing at the national level.
"I believe the filibuster is an artifact of history that no longer fits American democracy," Inslee told Vox. "It is such an impediment to our ability to respond to multiple challenges. We know how it would prevent climate change legislation of any dimension from moving through the Senate."
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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