Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who wrote a 2007 book about clean energy and a dozen years later staked an unsuccessful presidential run on addressing climate change, said Monday afternoon that he took the state’s record-setting heat personally.
“What I have been warning about has now come to pass and it is very heart-rending to see these changes happen to our state,” Inslee said from his home on Bainbridge Island.
Inslee said he was dismayed at the hardship experienced by people without easy access to air conditioning in Washington state and for outdoor laborers.
And more worrisome from his perspective was what the heat wave meant for the state’s future, saying it was an “ominous portent” of conditions to come.
“It’s going to be 105 in Seattle today. But it’s 130 when you look into the future at some point,” Inslee said. (Seattle-Tacoma International airport would record later a record-breaking temperature of 108 degrees later Monday afternoon.)
Ahead of the heat wave, Inslee removed COVID-19 capacity limits for public and nonprofit cooling centers. (Capacity limits were set to expire June 30, without the governor’s additional action). The state health department later removed restrictions on water recreation facilities.
When asked if the state needed policies to spur investment and access to air conditioning, Inslee said he was certain that people would seek to adapt to a hotter Pacific Northwest, but he argued focus must remain on reducing emissions.
“I’m sure that people will — including public entities — start to build in cooling requirements and investments where that can be done,” Inslee said, adding that it needed to be done but “there’s not enough chilling stations in the world to stop this problem if you don’t attack it at its source, which is climate change.”
Inslee noted that climate change threatens Washingtonians “from so many angles,” listing childhood asthma, oyster-threatening ocean acidification and wildfires as concerning manifestations of a warming world.
“Temperatures are just the tip of the melting iceberg,” he said
Washington state’s overall greenhouse-gas emissions have continue to trend higher during Inslee’s time in office.
Washington’s latest tally of greenhouse gas emissions, for the year 2018, calculated that the state had spewed the equivalent of 99.6 million metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, or its equivalent, into the atmosphere. That’s nearly 8 million more than the year before Inslee took office — 2012.
The economy and population have grown rapidly during that time and emissions per resident have fallen.
During Inslee’s first years in office, the governor struggled to gain traction for much of his climate agenda in the state Legislature.
But in recent years, Inslee and Democratic allies in the statehouse developed momentum, beginning in 2019 by passing a bill to rid Washington’s electric grid of fossil-fuel-generated power by 2045. Lawmakers in 2020 passed legislation that will require automakers to make more zero-emission vehicles available for sale in Washington. And last year, legislators passed bills designed to gradually require lower-carbon fuels in Washington vehicles and to create a carbon-pricing system for individual businesses.
The impacts of those policies will play out in years to come.