Jay Inslee Calls Climate Change a 'Challenge And Opportunity'

Mar 21, 2019

Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, is a Democratic presidential candidate.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee visited New Hampshire for the first time as a declared presidential candidate last weekend. The Democratic hopeful, after a house party in Bedford, discussed why climate change is the No. 1 reason he is running for the White House. 

"If the economy is your No. 1 interest, climate change warriors like myself are for you because we're going to both prevent damage to the economy and we're going to grow jobs by the bucketful," he says. 

(Below is a transcript of the NHPR interview.)

You centered your campaign on the issue of climate change. It's become such a partisan issue even here in New Hampshire a policy decisions have been left to individual towns and cities. It's really been more of a grassroots effort here. How do you plan to work across party lines and inspire that real change on a national level?

Well, we would like to do that. I think the American people are way ahead of the Republican Party in this regard. Vast majorities of Americans want clean energy. They understand the job potential of clean energy. They understand that they have a great risk of injury that they're now seeing with their own eyes. I've seen Paradise, California, burn to the ground. This is a town of 25,000 people; seeing the floods in Houston, seeing Miami where they now have had to build up the roads because of seawater. Americans are now experiencing this firsthand and so they are demanding of their government that we act. But unfortunately the Republican Party is still under the control of Donald Trump. And as we've seen recently they're unwilling to rise up against him and it's most unfortunate. So at the moment you have a vast majority of support for these policies are through the Democratic Party and elected officials. So in the current context of this we have to always keep our hands open to Republican ideas and I've been successful in bipartisanship in my state: huge transportation infrastructure bill, huge improvement in education. We've done that on a bipartisan basis in my state. But until the Republican Party stops calling this a Chinese hoax we're going to need to move forward with Democratic leaders, including removing the filibuster, which is now used by Mitch McConnell as a weaponized instrument to prevent action against climate change.

But do you worry about future presidents in a filibuster, whether the president be Democrat or Republican, don't you worry that could have long term implications?

Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., speaks with a guest at a house party in Bedford on March 16, 2019.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

I believe in democracy. I believe in the power of one person, one vote. I believe that we should follow the Constitution which does not have a filibuster in it. And it is now an antiquated antebellum archaic institution and we just have to face reality. And there's a really simple reality. The earth is effectively on fire. We know that we have just a few years to really start defeating climate change and we know that unless we remove the filibuster nothing is going to happen in Washington, D.C. and I'm the only candidate who says, what to me is clear, defeating climate change has to be the No. 1 priority the United States. If it is not job one it won't get done. And I have the youth of the nation with me. I have entrepreneurs who are ready to put millions of people to work. I just met a fellow here right now who has a renewable energy company. We're seeing economic growth like crazy around the clean energy industry and it's time to have a president who understands that.

But you do need to convince independent and undecided voters who, you know, quite frankly, many of them voted for Donald Trump, don't you?

Yes. And I believe we are going to do that and I'm confident about that because I served as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association when we flipped seven governor's races from red to blue this year and we learned to do that by talking to the economic aspirations of Americans, including in the Midwest where we won seats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Kansas -- around a message of economic growth responding to the economic anxieties of people, and one of the best ways to do that is to point out the job creating opportunities in clean energy.

You've been called the Climate Change candidate since you declared. Some critics have said you're a one issue candidate. How is your response?

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley interviews Gov. Jay Inslee in Bedford.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Well, I think people who would say that truly don't understand how significant and comprehensive this challenge and opportunity is -- and it is both a challenge and an opportunity -- because climate change is an economic issue. Look, if the economy is your No. 1 interest, climate change warriors like myself are for you because we're going to both prevent damage to the economy and we're going to grow jobs by the bucketful building a clean energy future. This is probably the No. 1 growth opportunity for the U.S. economy because we know the world is going to need new products and services and that's what we do in America. We create, we invent, we build new technologies. Whenever there's been a transition, America has done well and there's gonna be a big transition. It's a health issue. If health is your No. 1 concern, it's a concern by reducing the epidemic of asthma. L,ook, if you've heard a kid wheezing you ought to be against climate change because pollution is associated with fossil fuels are increasing asthma rates. If national security is what you care about, the Pentagon has identified climate change as one of the top threats to the national security of the United States, because it desertification climate change causes mass migrations, which destabilizes communities and creates conflict, which we have to get involved with all too frequently, so it's not a single issue.

Parts of New Hampshire are very much like parts of Washington state. How do you keep residents in those rural areas. Or how do you bring young families into those rural areas?

Well, developing rural economies is something close to my heart because I spent 20 years in one - a small town of 3,000 -- in an agricultural area and a red Republican district where I got elected. And what we have ... our experience in Washington is, because we've had the right policies, we are growing jobs in rural areas.

"The earth is effectively on fire. We know that we have just a few years to really start defeating climate change."

The largest manufacturer of carbon fiber in the western hemisphere I believe is a small town called Moses Lake Washington in central Washington, and that goes into electric cars. The largest solar farm is in a town of 350 in Lind, Washington, where I cut the ribbon the other day. We're doing biofuel refiners in Grace Harbor, Washington, which is an old timber town that has been depressed. So we're demonstrating job creation in small towns in rural areas, we recognize it as a principal instrument of rural and small town economic development. Now we're also doing other things. This year, we're, I hope, going to pass a bill to extend broadband more universally because broadband access is extremely important to small companies that want to start in rural America. So we're developing multiple channels. And my No. 1 message is, look if you want to see progress, come to Washington State. Look what we can do. We're a template for progress. Doing things like increasing the minimum wage, having the most robust paid family leave in the United States, adopting the first net neutrality, legalizing marijuana - which has started a whole new industry. These are things we need to do across the United States. I'm a governor who has had that success. I think it's time to get things done in Washington, D.C. Having a governor in Washington is gonna be a good thing.