Washington Governor Jay Inslee might not be in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination any more, but his platforms are living on through his former rivals, who are now clamoring to release their plans to confront the climate crisis, and for good reason: The damage of climate change is becoming more imminent each day, leading to powerful storms like Hurricane Dorian, deadly droughts and floods, and food shortages around the world.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 56 percent of registered voters said climate change is an emergency, including 74 percent of 18- to 34-year-old voters. But until recently, Inslee was one of the few candidates with a concerted plan to combat present and looming disasters. In fact, it was his signature issue for the whole of his campaign, which ultimately ended in August.
“Inslee is one of those rare candidates who did not last for more than a few months but had a big impact on the race,” Robert Shrum, a veteran Democratic consultant and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, told the New York Times. “His candidacy is over, but his ideas do live on.”
On Tuesday, September 3, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, former housing secretary Julián Castro, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke each released their plans to combat the crisis. California Senator Kamala Harris released a plan on Wednesday, September 4, and two more candidates — New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar — have introduced plans since Sunday. Former Vice President Joe Biden released his climate plan in June, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders already promised that, if he were president, he would spend a whopping $16.3 trillion to fight against the climate crisis. Andrew Yang’s plan has also been out for a while, and he proposed spending nearly $5 trillion on the crisis.
The plans differ in costs, priorities, and specificities, but they all have similar aims: to reach carbon neutrality by at least 2050. (Carbon neutrality means you don’t have any carbon footprint, something scientists agree could reduce planet-warming emissions.) There’s no one direct answer for the best way to reach that goal, which is why candidates’ positions vary.
Warren’s plan would fully embrace goals laid out by Inslee, building on his ten-year $3 trillion plan. According to the New York Times, Warren met with Inslee in Seattle last week, and she shouts him out directly in the Medium post that announced her plan.
“While his presidential campaign may be over, his ideas should remain at the center of the agenda,” the senator explained.
“The climate crisis will leave no one untouched,” Warren’s policy reads, a thought mirrored by almost every candidate’s policy proposals. “But it also represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity: to create millions of good American jobs in clean and renewable energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing; to unleash the best of American innovation and creativity; to rebuild our unions and create real progress and justice for workers; and to directly confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy.” Her plan is, in typical Warren style, extensive; Inslee’s detailed climate plan totaled over 200 pages, according to the Times.
She also isn’t the only candidate who took a line or two from Inslee: Castro’s plan includes several adaptations from the climate crisis crusader himself, including replacing all coal-fired power generation with zero-emissions sources by 2030. His is a $10 trillion plan, far overshadowing what Warren’s plan stipulates.
O’Rourke, who released his plan on the same day as Warren and Castro, didn’t mention Inslee by name but did take some of his former rivals’ positions. His $5 trillion plan highlights four main issues: cutting pollution; mobilizing a $5 trillion plan to invest in infrastructure and innovation; guaranteeing net-zero emissions by 2050, and preparing communities for the “[fight] against extreme weather.”
And while Buttigieg’s plan doesn’t actually dictate the amount of money he plans to spend on combating the climate crisis, his campaign told Vox that the government would likely spend $1.5-$2 trillion for the proposal, “in addition to investments in modernizing, roads, railways, water mains, and bridges.”
Then there’s Harris, who also took note from Inslee in her $10 trillion plan, saying his work resonated with her. “As Governor Inslee noted, a price on pollution is not a silver bullet, but by placing a progressively increasing fee as far upstream as possible, we can drive down pollution while raising government revenues that can be used to address the harms of greenhouse gas emissions,” her plan reads.
Booker’s $3 trillion plan, released earlier this week, mirrored many of Inslee's policy proposals without overtly taking ownership of them, aiming to spend more money on clean energy, phase out the use of fossil fuels and create a completely carbon-neutral economy. Klobuchar also recently released her $1 trillion plan that would, primarily, restore and expand upon Obama-era policies, which the Trump administration has steadily been undermining for years.
On September 4, the Department of Energy rolled back Obama-era regulations on light bulbs, which experts warn may lead to unnecessary pollution. He denies climate change is happening at all, even though every scientific indication shows our time to act is running out.