It is not new to hear Gov. Jay Inslee talk about climate change. It has been his signature issue for much of his long political career and, though some people may tire of hearing him talk about it, he never tires of putting it front and center in his speeches and policy proposals.
Such was the case in the state-of-the-state speech Inslee gave on Tuesday as the 2022 legislative session began. Inslee told legislators, “We have a unique opportunity with one-time and new federal funds – along with state money – to provide nearly $1 billion to fund clean transportation programs and activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector; preserve the infrastructure we have; and support critical investments to improve ferry service reliability. This includes $324 million to support ferry electrification. We desperately need boats – cleaner boats – to give Washingtonians reliable ferry services.”
If ferry boats did not localize the issue enough, the governor also spoke of the suffering already being inflicted upon state residents by fires and floods exacerbated by climate change.
“Climate change is not merely a graph on a slide deck with an arrow pointed at calamity,” Inslee said. “It’s found in the eyes of people who saw floods go through their windows in Everson; evacuees who returned to see the charred ruins of their homes in Malden; or the Colville Tribes who lost 600,000 acres of timber to wildfires.”
Perhaps as a prod to get Republicans on board with his climate policies, he touched on clean energy economic opportunities opening up for rural residents, such as “new solar farms popping up like dandelions in Eastern Washington.”
Republican legislators have not been especially tuned in to the climate issue for a variety of reasons, including fears of higher costs for polluting industries and worries about intrusive government schemes. Their biggest reluctance to embrace the climate issue, though, is due to the fact that it may not pay off politically. The Republican base is seething with climate change deniers who might punish any GOP elected official for spouting “save the Earth” rhetoric.
For now, expect Republican legislators to heed the rants of their loudest constituents, not the warnings of climate scientists or a Democratic governor.
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