Editor’s Note: Jay Inslee is a Democrat and the governor of Washington. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
While Donald Trump is blowing smoke on climate change, we here in the West have been choking on it this summer. And if we don’t start electing people – from city council to governor – who are willing to confront climate change, we’re all going to pay dearly.
In Washington state we know this from our own gasping experience. For two weeks in August, the skies were shrouded in the darkest smoke in recent memory, as record-breaking fires tore through the Western states – destroying communities and forcing widespread evacuations. A thick, acrid and dangerous pall from hundreds of fires filled the lungs of citizens trying to go about their lives.
And this month climate change has brought more tragedy and destruction to our country. Hurricane Florence hit North and South Carolina with a combination of wind strength, rainfall and storm surge that is unprecedented — but increasingly expected – for the region.
For millions of Americans, climate change is no longer just a chart or a graph. It’s wildfires. It’s floodwater invading our homes and drought destroying our crops. It’s hurricanes and record-breaking heat waves. It’s an emerging new normal, one that we don’t need to accept as inevitable.
Americans, we must start voting on climate change. We can in just a few weeks, in voter initiatives and in elections for governors and state legislatures throughout the country. That is because states can lead the fight against the serious dangers posed by global warming, building a safer future full of new and greater economic opportunities, powered by fast-growing clean energy solutions like wind and solar energy, and electric vehicles. It’s happening everywhere already.
So, why is the Trump administration doing everything it can to dismantle climate progress?
In August Trump’s EPA announced plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan and allow power plants to dump unlimited carbon pollution into our atmosphere, even though their own analysis shows this could lead to as many as 1,400 more premature deaths each year.
This follows the administration’s plan to repeal the Clean Car Standards, which would essentially force Americans to use more oil, increase pollution from cars and trucks, and deliver a damaging blow to our nation’s auto industry in the global marketplace. And now Trump’s EPA wants to unravel rules that limit methane and even mercury and toxic air pollution. Taken together these actions would undo the most important steps America has ever taken to confront climate change.
Columnist Thomas Friedman recently argued that climate change should be on the ballot in 2020 – that our Democratic presidential nominee should make fighting climate change and creating the jobs that flow from investing in a clean energy economy front and center in our national dialogue. He’s right. But we cannot wait until 2020. Make no mistake: Climate change is on the ballot in 2018.
This year Americans can elect governors and state legislatures who will push back, who will work to transform our nation’s energy and transportation systems and reduce the carbon pollution that is harming our communities. They can vote for initiatives like I-1631 in my state that will finally hold polluters accountable.
Americans don’t have to wait for Washington, D.C. Donald Trump cannot stop us in the states.
Wealthy special interests have predictably argued that Washington state’s climate leadership would hurt our economy, but they’ve been proven fantastically wrong; our state economy has been No. 1 in the nation for the last two years, according to CNBC and Business Insider.
Clean energy is part of our growth story, as it is in other states. Jobs in renewable energy are among the fastest growing in America.
We in Washington state are not alone. Many constituencies are joining forces across America to fight for climate action. The Peoples Climate Movement is bringing together environmentalists, labor unions, frontline communities, faith groups and others to mobilize voters who will demand climate action rooted in racial and economic justice. Governors across the country have joined to commit their states to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. are moving forward, despite Donald Trump. Soon more will join us.
This November, I hope you will get out and vote for an American clean energy future. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to act – now.