Greg Mason / The Spokesman-Review
Gov. Jay Inslee doesn’t believe forest fires or oceanic issues are the biggest threats Washington faces from climate change.
Rather, he thinks it’s something deeper: Fear.
“Because I think the reason this has been difficult for us to make this transition more quickly is people’s fear that we can’t do this and it’s just too hard and that we’re not smart enough to invent and build a new clean energy future,” Inslee said Friday. “I think we’re up against the forces of fear from people unwilling to take actions we need to help develop these clean energy resources.”
The response was among the several Inslee offered on climate questions posed Friday by Gonzaga University students. Gonzaga was one of the stops the governor and his wife, Trudi, made during a trip Friday through parts of Spokane County.
Joined by dozens of students in a discussion hosted by the Gonzaga Center for Climate, Society and the Environment, Inslee pointed to rapid developments with green technology, such as electric vehicles, as evidence that society can move “the clean energy revolution” forward.
“We’re out of time. This is the last few seconds on the clock,” Inslee said, “and I’m glad we’ve got people at Gonzaga who care about this issue who can help lead this great state.”
Inslee also got a firsthand look Friday afternoon at how the Spokane Transit Authority has electrified part of its fleet.
The transit authority, the second stop on Inslee’s Spokane County trek, launched battery-electric buses into service in October. The buses, which run a route along Monroe and Regal streets, were showcased to the governor and his entourage via a tour, while Inslee got to try his hand at attaching a charger into one of the vehicles.
Brian Henning, director of the Gonzaga Climate Center, said moving transportation options and heating utilities to the electric grid is one of the next steps needed in Washington. With the passage of the Clean Energy Transformation Act in 2019, the state is committed to transitioning to an energy supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
During his visit to Gonzaga, Inslee touted proposed legislation that, if passed, would update the state’s building code by adding tighter energy efficiency standards for new buildings, including a provision that would require buildings to have wiring for solar panel installation by 2034. The bill, which passed the state House of Representatives, is pending in the state Senate.
Inslee told Gonzaga students Friday that people like them give him hope.
“I’m very serious about this because I know that your generation is committed to this, frankly, more so than my generation,” he said, “and I know that your action is going to be basically telling the boomers to get off their lawn. Hey, boomer: Wake up.
“The boomers should not be able to leave you a desiccated planet,” Inslee continued, “and I believe your generation is going to become even more active to make sure that we do that.”
Gonzaga junior Kelly Patterson, who asked Inslee about the state’s biggest threat with climate change, said the governor’s answer “definitely captured where Washington is at in the climate crisis.”
“I was surprised because sometimes politicians have this air of they have to dance around everything and they can’t give you real, valid answers, but I thought that he really dove in and had genuine, honest answers to everyone’s questions,” she said.