Joining students at Green River College for a town hall talk on climate change last week, Washington’s “green governor” fired a salvo into the Trump administration’s rigging to open the discussion.
Washington state’s future is on the line, said Gov. Jay Inslee — he grew up here, and it’s personal, he told a room bursting with students, staff and teachers at the Lindbloom Student Union Building on the Auburn campus Oct. 12.
“President Trump is wrong. The state of Washington must, can, and will defeat climate change and grow jobs by the thousands,” Inslee said. “We’re going to get this job done.
“You can’t come into my house, you can’t come into my state and damage the forests, the mountains and the rivers of my state without a fight. I am going to give a fight to climate change, and I am not going to give up until we defeat it. … If we all share this view, we are going to defeat it,” Inslee said.
The task is only beginning as Inslee tries to unite business, educational and political leaders in the pursuit of a cleaner, more environmentally-responsible state.
Given a challenge that requires young talent and forward thinking, the governor immediately grabbed the attention of Green River students, asking them to become part of the solution by reducing pollution and protecting the environment. The college supports an exemplary natural resources program that prepares students for immediate employment in forestry, water quality, park management or wildland fire.
“You understand the science of what it takes to keep our forests healthy, to devise and invent the new technologies to defeat climate change,” Inslee told the students. “We need you.”
Now, Inslee emphasized, now is the time to act. The governor has presided over two severe wildfire seasons in the state, a problem incurred by climate change, the governor insisted, and amplified lately by what is happening elsewhere. Destructive wildfires in California have taken too many lives and torched too many homes, the governor said.
“We know that these fires (in California) are not in just the future of the state of Washington, they are in the present in the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “Our forests today are explosive. They are ready to blow up. … “
Parts of the Evergreen State’s many forests are dying, Inslee said, posing not just a future wildfire threat but a present one.
“There’s too much fuel, the trees are too dense, they’re sick and they need substantial management,” Inslee said. “And we need to fund to help finance people to do that work, and I could see graduates of Green River College in helping us in designs with those management systems.”
Under Inslee’s watch, Washington has become a leader on climate change. Inslee has put a cap on carbon with a first-in-the-nation Clean Air Rule. He also has launched a global alliance to combat ocean acidification. He is promoting the production of electric vehicles, solar paneling and other alternative energy sources as a way to reduce carbon-gas emissions.
Inslee continues to push for more partnerships, more ways to address today’s changing climate. His policies are part of a design to limit carbon pollution and grow jobs.
Inslee contested Trump’s conclusion that fighting climate change would only hurt the economy.
“That’s just poppycock, that’s just wrong, that is just foolish,” Inslee said. “We have done all these things to fight climate change. We are building jobs like crazy across the state of Washington.”
Yet, Washington lags behind other Western States and Canadian provinces that have enacted carbon pricing and clean-fuel regulations. Inslee’s administration is working on ways to put a price on the state’s major carbon polluters and encourage them to reduce gas emissions.
Inslee’s green drive needs a monetary pipeline and the support of the Legislature. Putting a charge or tax on heavy polluters could generate millions of dollars for a reserve that could fund climate control programs, Inslee said.
His executive order for a cap on emissions is one thing, but putting a price tag on pollution is another.
Inslee knows he’s in for a fight.
Such a fund, if realized, would support worker training programs for clean energy jobs, provide consumers with incentives to buy electric cars and solar panels, help restore the Puget Sound, rivers and streams that embrace salmon runs and adequately pay for the prevention and control of wildfires.
Inslee is asking everyone to do their part.
“Everybody in this room has the ability to influence (climate change),” he said. “This is an all-hands-on-deck deal.”