Unlocking The Economic Potential Of Adapting To Climate Realities — Jay Inslee Gets It

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Climate change is going to be expensive. No way around it. The ravages caused by a warming planet will inflict trillions of dollars in damages on people all around the globe — fires, powerful storms, famine, shortages of clean water — will exact a toll greater than the cost of all the wars in history.

Jay Inslee

There are two ways to deal with what’s coming. Close your eyes and hope the bogeyman decides not to come to your door. Or open your eyes and embrace the changes in a way that benefits as many people as possible. There is no middle ground here, no “muddling through.” It’s gonna get ugly and all of us will be touched by the changes to come.

At present, the government of the United States is shutting its eyes to climate change. The alleged president has ordered that plans for new federal buildings and infrastructure projects not include strategies to cope with rising flood waters. Too costly, he says. No executive support for renewable energy can be found anywhere in the upper reaches of this so-called administration. No job training programs for those whose occupations will be impacted by the coming changes. No nothing.

Standing Out In The Crowd

Jay Inslee is one of 457 Democrats currently running for president in 2020. In such a crowded field, it’s hard to stand out. But he has separated himself from the pack with a bold plan that embraces clean energy and a zero carbon economy. He says his Evergreen Economy Plan will create 8 million clean tech jobs. He also says it will cost $9 trillion.

Gulp. That’s a really big number. At least it appears to be until you realize that the US has squandered $6 trillion on its ill-considered military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. And those are just the direct costs we know about. The follow-on from our bloodthirsty path of destruction is double or triple that amount. So which would you rather have, mountains of shattered bodies with nothing to show for it except a towering national debt or a country with a vibrant economy that is a global leader in addressing climate change?

“The Evergreen Economy Plan is built on the model that has led Washington state to become the fastest-growing economy in America — making historic investments in clean energy research and deployment, creating good jobs in 21st century manufacturing, building green transportation infrastructure, supporting modern job-training programs, raising wages, and protecting workers’ rights and families,” according to Inslee’s website.

Implementing The Green New Deal

Inslee’s plan builds on the Green New Deal. He tells The Guardian,  “You think of the Green New Deal as saying, ‘We should go to the moon’ — but in my plan is how to build the rocket ship. They both have their value.” Inslee envisions upgrading buildings, replacing water and transit infrastructure, eliminating pollution from manufacturing, and ramping up spending on clean energy and climate research.

Inslee borrows an opening statement from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which said, “We are working toward a definite goal, which is to prevent the return of conditions which came very close to destroying what we call modern civilization.” He explains, “Today, America faces a new threat to our modern civilization — climate change. This challenge also presents an unprecedented economic opportunity to lead the world in building a clean energy future.”

Inslee says his Evergreen Economy Plan will promote “high-paying, high-skilled jobs building a stronger, healthier, more just, inclusive and sustainable future,” one that features more collective bargaining power for unions, new employment opportunities for the workers affected by the contraction of the fossil fuel industry, and gender pay equity.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The jobs issue is huge. In federal elections in Australia yesterday, reactionaries led by Scott Morrison were re-elected in large part because people in Queensland want the thousands of jobs promised by the Adani coal mine, which if built will be one of the largest in the world. If a few thousand jobs can influence the outcome of an election in a country that is experiencing record heat and rising sea levels, Inslee’s promise of new job opportunities could resonate with US voters as well.

Inslee’s concern for workers includes a call for a reinvigorated labor movement that will make it possible for them to pursue their own interests more aggressively. Anti-union animus is strong in the US, thanks to decades of propaganda from the Koch brothers and others. Few workers seem to realize that the anger they feel at the stagnation of wages is due in large measure to their loss of bargaining power with employers.

Reactionaries don’t particularly care about workers. They violently resent the contributions unions make to progressive political campaigns. It’s OK for them to get a compliant Supreme Court to open the floodgates to a tidal wave of corporate cash under the pretext of free speech for corporations but let one dollar flow from union coffers to candidates on the left and it’s a full on national emergency.

The Plan

Here’s the meat of Inslee’s Evergreen Economy Plan:

  • Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy: Governor Inslee will make historic investments as part of an unprecedented nationwide effort to deploy clean energy in every community in the country. This effort includes: establishing a ReBuild America Initiative to upgrade millions of buildings over the next two-plus decades; a $90 billion Green Bank for clean energy deployment; a Next Generation Rural Electrification Initiative; programs to support energy democracy and community-led energy transformation; and grants in lieu of tax incentives for clean energy installation. Collectively, this effort will massively increase clean energy deployment, create millions of jobs, and achieve the goals laid out in Governor Inslee’s 100% Clean Energy for America Plan.
  • Building Sustainable & Climate-Smart Infrastructure: Governor Inslee’s Evergreen Economy Plan makes the largest investment in American infrastructure in generations — creating sustainable transportation, water, affordable housing, sustainable communities, and smart grid systems. Governor Inslee will double investment in public transit, dramatically expand electric car-charging infrastructure, and launch a Clean Water for All Initiative to close the $82 billion annual funding gap in critical drinking water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. This plan for climate-safe infrastructure investment will put Americans to work in every community to achieve a state of good repair; protect public health; and improve resilience to devastating floods, droughts, fires, and storms.
  • Leading the World in Clean Manufacturing: The Evergreen Economy Plan creates incentives and programs to grow good American jobs and keep U.S. manufacturing on the cutting-edge of the 21st century global economy. Through Governor Inslee’s plan, the federal government will partner with industry to increase efficiency, cut costs and waste, and deploy new technologies and fuels to reduce climate pollution. That includes: making major investments in domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries; establishing a federal “Buy Clean” Program to help close the carbon loophole and support domestic industries and workers; creating a new Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit; and utilizing entities such as the Export-Import Bank to increase exports of made-in-America clean energy solutions. These initiatives will allow workers and businesses to revitalize America’s economic competitiveness in existing manufacturing industries, while taking the lead in emerging clean technologies and growth markets.
  • Investing in Innovation & Scientific Research: To defeat climate change and fully capture the clean energy opportunity of the 21st century, Governor Inslee’s plan also invests in transformative research and development in next-generation clean technology and climate solutions, and in scientific discovery and STEM education. Governor Inslee’s plan will increase U.S. clean energy and climate solutions research investment to $35 billion each year, more than 5 times the current funding. This investment boost will marshal the resources of the federal government, states, universities and private sector innovators to confront the climate challenge. The plan also supports innovation in the agricultural sector through a new ARPA-Ag effort and a Next Generation Rural Clean Energy Extension Service.
  • Ensuring Good Jobs with Family Supporting Wages & Benefits: Governor Inslee puts reinvestment in American workers at the heart of his plan to build an Evergreen Economy — ensuring high-paying, high-skilled jobs building a stronger, healthier, more just, inclusive and sustainable future. This plan will reunionize and empower workers in every industry with new tools to collectively bargain, challenge racial and gender inequality, and close the gap in wealth and prosperity. It includes: enacting a “G.I. Bill” for impacted fossil fuel workers and communities; repealing the Taft-Hartley Act provisions that allow so-called “Right-to-Work” laws; redoubling commitment to national apprenticeship programs and creating and enforcing protections for gender pay equity.

Praise & A Plea For Help

Daniel Kammen, who contributed to the IPCC 6 climate change report, has praise for the Inslee plan. “It is not only vital for our environment, but it is a recipe for more affordable housing and vibrant communities, good-paying jobs, corporate and municipal accountability, and global leadership for the United States.” Inslee has been derisive of Joe Biden’s “middle of the road” reaction to the Green New Deal. According to EcoWatch, he told an audience in Iowa, “When we have people in Iowa seeking high ground, we can’t have a middle ground proposal.”

CleanTechnica stalwart Benjamin Nead reminds us that Inslee needs just over 10,000 more supporters in order to be included in the upcoming Democratic debates. Even a pledge of $1 will help propel him onto the debate stage where he will be exposed to a larger national audience.

While we do not officially endorse any political candidates, we can say Jay Inslee stands for many of the same things we believe are central to our mission, especially a rapid decarbonization of electrical generation, a changeover to electric vehicles as soon as possible, and major improvements in building efficiency.

“All politics is local,” TIP O’Neill famously said. Thinning ice sheets and stranded polar bears are a concern, but fade into the background when it comes to having a decent job. Inslee’s appeal to workers may be just the spark he needs to carry his bold ideas forward.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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