It is time for action based upon our optimism, our ability to build a clean energy economy, our love for Washington state, and our existing state clean air laws.

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WE have come through our summer of fire. Now we must make it through our winter of action.

We must take action not only against the short-term threat of fire, but against the underlying force that has damaged our state and given us a foretaste of the injuries to come — climate change.

We can wait no longer. While the fires burned, the crops dried up, the ski slopes lay barren and the salmon died in hot water, the Legislature has been unable to respond, even though many legislators have worked for action.

Whether climate change is a serious threat is no longer a credible debate. None of us would delay medical treatment if 97 percent of the world’s doctors told us that urgent action is needed to protect our health. Likewise, none of us should resist facing this challenge when 97 percent of the world’s scientists tell us the health of our state is in peril.

Gov. Jay Inslee, shown in an August 2015 photo, spoke to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition for an item that aired Wednesday. (AP file photo / Young Kwak)
Gov. Jay Inslee, shown in an August 2015 photo, spoke to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition for an item that aired Wednesday. (AP file photo / Young Kwak)

No single weather event can be tied to climate change. But the last year gave us a disturbing view of our long-term future. Taking rank with the climate deniers is inconsistent with our state’s high level of scientific literacy.

It is time for responsible action based upon our optimism, our ability to build a clean energy economy, our love for Washington state and our existing state clean-air laws.

The Legislature in 2008 enacted limits on greenhouse gases, but has since failed to adopt a way to meet them. Under my existing authority through the state’s Clean Air Act, I have directed the Department of Ecology to enforce current law and develop a rule to cap carbon pollution that we’ll call the Clean Air Rule.

A carbon cap is a regulatory limit on how much carbon an entity can emit, similar to regulations businesses already comply with that restrict air or water pollution. The proposed rule applies to a small number of the largest emitters — those that report more than 100,000 metric tons annually. Beginning in 2017, they will gradually reduce their emissions to help Washington achieve our 2008 pollution limits.

The Department of Ecology will spend several months in an open and transparent rule-making process listening to Washingtonians’ ideas on how to refine the initial proposal released this week.

We need to take action because inaction costs our children and seniors suffering from higher-than-average levels of asthma. Inaction costs our growers trying to save cherry and apple crops from drought. Inaction costs tourism and recreation businesses across our state that depend on seasonal revenues to survive.

In taking this action, we will do what we do so well in Washington: We will lead. But we will not act alone. Nearly half the world’s population will be living with carbon-pollution requirements by 2020, including our major economic partners in Europe, Canada and California, with emerging carbon pollution action now being taken by China.

We will not fall victim to the fear mongers who have attempted to block every clean-air and clean-water law since Earth Day 1970 by arguing we cannot have a healthy environment and a healthy economy. They have been wrong every time. The experience of eight Northeast states in the United States, Quebec and multiple nations that have adopted caps on carbon pollution while still experiencing growth is more than enough to give us confidence to move forward in the Evergreen State.

We will harness Washington’s optimism and innovative spirit. This Clean Air Rule is just one more step in our long journey as a world leader, not just in technology but in our stewardship of our children’s future.