Washington Governor Jay Inslee has positioned himself as the “climate change candidate” in the crowded Democratic field.
Why is he putting climate change ahead of other issues, such housing, health care, and the economy? He responds to Press Play by first highlighting his successes, saying Washington state has the best economy and highest minimum wage in the U.S., some of the biggest teacher pay increases, legalization of marijuana, a public option for long-term elder care, and more.
He has been campaigning on fighting climate change, and believes it affects every aspect of our lives: "Unless we solve the climate crisis, we will not be able to solve these other problems…. With your towns burning down like Paradise, California, with your farms being flooded like the Midwest, with giant rainstorms in Houston, and Miami Beach having to build the roads up a foot and a half so they're not flooded -- this is a problem that is so urgent, it demands our attention. It is our last chance to deal with this problem. The next president will either lead this nation in a clean energy revolution, or [our] goose is cooked."
He suggests Washington and California have shown that clean energy jobs can have a positive ecnomic impact. "So this is not a single issue. It is an economic issue. It is a jobs issue. And my plan is to create eight million jobs."
Inslee says climate change is also a health issue, with more people dying from air pollution than from car crashes; and it's a national security issue, with droughts in Africa driving mass migrations that have destabilised countries in Europe.
Inslee is not polling very high, so why isn’t his message attracting more supporters?
Inslee says his campaign just started. "We are where Bill Clinton was when he started at this stage. We are where Jimmy Carter was when he started, which was about 1%. And we've now qualified for the first debate. We've had a very rapid uptake. I've actually obtained 65,000 donors faster than some of the other candidates… And we had about a 35% surge since I introduced my climate measures and my energy jobs package… So this is part of the growth curve… And I'm happy to continue this climb."
Following all the wildfires in California, many of which were caused by utilities, there's a plan to cut power to communities when there's a wildfire risk. Does Inslee think it's a good idea to impose blackouts?
"I don't know the operational part of this. But I do know this: It's really important not to pour gasoline all over the floor of your house. And if somebody lights a cigarette, you know the cigarette wasn't necessarily the most dangerous part. And what we're doing is we're pouring gasoline all over our forests because of climate change. We know the science is abundantly clear. There's absolutely no dispute about this -- that our forests are tinder boxes, they're ready to explode because of climate change," he says.
Inslee's climate and energy targets
Inslee believes that solving climate change requires going to the source: carbon dioxide. He wants to have 100% electricity from clean sources, the end of reliance on coal, and an increase in driving non-polluting cars.
"I wrote a book about this 12 years ago with Governor Brown… We formed the U.S. Climate Alliance. We now have 24 states dedicated to the Paris agreement, and we did that because we wanted to show the world there is intelligent life in this country, and there is. We just need a president to match the innovative capability of this nation," he says.
"We've got to build more housing fundamentally, and we're doing that, including low-income housing. And that's why I increased funding over a million dollars virtually every year I've been a governor. We need to do some things in zoning to make sure we can build housing in our urban core," he says.
Many homeless people struggle with mental illness. Inslee says Washington is making its mental health care system more community-based, so people can get the care they need where they reside, even if it's on the street.
It's also necessary to address the opioid crisis and adopt higher wages, he says.
Reworking the tax structure
Inslee points out that Washington adopted a college financial aid package that was heavily paid for through an increased tax on large banks and some tech companies.
On the federal level, Inslee says, "We've got to reel in the $27 billion that are now going to the oil and gas industry for no reason under the sun. We've got to reverse the Trump tax cuts, which put billions of dollars into the hands of the top few percent."
--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy