Jay Inslee takes climate change more seriously than other Democratic 2020 candidates
Washington Governor Jay Inslee isn’t just saying he supports fighting climate change, he has walked the walk, and was doing so long before many of his fellow Democratic 2020 presidential contenders.
Let’s be honest, Inslee does not have the known profile or name recognition like Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) or Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), but what he does have is experience crafting climate change legislation and pushing it through a legislature.
According to Mother Jones:
He sponsored an ambitious clean-energy bill in 2005. Its provision encouraging energy-efficient retrofitting fed into the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the comprehensive cap-and-trade bill that passed the House in 2009, only to die in the Senate. In 2004, Inslee and his wife saw former Vice President Al Gore present a slideshow that would later become the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth. A year after Gore’s blockbuster documentary came out, Inslee cowrote a 387-page climate manifesto titled Apollo’s Fire—a reference to the space race, the kind of technological vision Inslee thought could be harnessed to build a clean-energy future.
Inslee and the Democratic-controlled Washington Legislature are attempting to pass a $273 million transportation and infrastructure package that would invest in a renewable energy grid and promote clean fuels and energy efficiency. The sweeping plan working its way through the Legislature is a microcosm of his presidential platform: clean energy, green jobs, environmental justice, and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
“Where it comes in handy to be a governor and having served in the Legislature [is] to understand how tough a lift this is—how much capital you have to spend, how much you have to be concentrated to this effort,” Inslee told the publication in an interview.
So, unlike other Democrats in the field, Inslee has the experience necessary to focus on climate change legislation and push it through Congress. And he also knows all about the subject, including the understanding that we need to deal with climate change first because it affects so many other issues.
“You can hardly point to anything you care about and say it isn’t necessary to defeat climate change to protect it,” Inslee said. “So we can’t succeed on these other issues unless we defeat climate change.”
Indeed, issues such as pollution, food insecurity, water shortages, natural disaster preparation, energy, immigration and even some national security and economic issues are all related to climate change. Dealing with it now will alleviate all of these other problems.
“Anyone can ramp up rhetoric,” Green New Deal researcher Greg Carlock said of the popular West Coast governor. “Someone who has had to implement can understand what is pragmatic.”
“In Jay’s case it’s a little bit different because everybody else is ostensibly for doing something about climate change,” former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean chimed in. “He’s just going to be the person who really knows a lot about it.”
Knowledge of the issue and experience passing legislation to deal with it combined with the understanding that this is the top priority gives Inslee a clear edge over the rest of the Democratic field. The question is can he rise above everybody else to get America’s attention and, ultimately, America’s vote?
“It is expected now that candidates will talk about climate change,” Democratic consultant Jesse Ferguson says. “There was a gauntlet that Jay Inslee laid down when he announced. You can’t just talk about climate—you’ve got to mean it.”
“You can’t solve climate change by just checking a box,” Inslee concluded. “If the next president has not made this priority one, then it cannot get done. And you can’t just make this one of the things on the to-do list.”
He’s right. The time to deal with climate change is now, and Inslee appears to be the only candidate who is prepared to do it from day one in the White House.
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