Gov. Jay Inslee stepped up his campaign Wednesday to do something on climate change, telling a legislative committee this morning that the impacts of global warming could cause $10 billion damage to Washington’s economy by 2020.
“I believe we in Washington ought to be optimistic in our ability to whip climate change,” Inslee told the committee in testifying for his proposal to create a legislative task force to study climate change responses.
The Republican-led Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee welcomed the Democratic governor, and chairman Doug Ericksen of Whatcom County, who said low-cost energy is a big concern to him, welcomed Inslee’s “bold” and “big” approach to developing energy and technological innovation in Washington.
Inslee said ocean acidification is being driven by carbon absorption on the high seas and is already damaging the Evergreen State’s iconic oyster industry, driving some bivalve propagators to less acidic waters in Hawaii.
“This is about pollution — Pollution with a capital P,” Inslee said, adding at one point “the science is clear and inarguable” that climate change is a rising threat.
The governor mentioned forest fires, drought and acidifying oceans among the impacts besides temperature changes. He said carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are at “the highest level in 800,000 years” and that if trends continue snowpack, now the lowest since the 1950s, could be so low that skiing would no longer be possible at Snoqualmie Pass by 2050.
Two climate skeptics testified, one saying global temperatures have fallen over the past 16 years. But Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish said his firm is encountering higher acidity in its oyster hatcheries and the threats are real. Cliff Traisman spoke for the Washington Environmental Council and Beth Doglio for Climate Solutions.
Conservative Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, serves on the board of Energy Northwest and urged Inslee to consider nuclear power among options. Inslee said he is open to other energy sources.
Spokesmen for the Association of Washington Business and Puget Sound Energy had concerns about the state responses to climate change that impact power rates.
After the hearing, Ericksen said energy costs remain a major concern to his caucus.
But he said he likes “the concept” of involving the four legislative caucuses and the idea of looking for best bang for the buck, which the bill would have the caucuses consider.
“We’ll probably tweak the bill a little bit, but we look forward to working with the governor,” Ericksen said.