Governor Jay Inslee at the University of Washington to discuss climate with students.
UW Sustainability
Governor Jay Inslee at the University of Washington to discuss climate change with students.

Governor Jay Inslee, who recently returned from the Conference of Parties in Paris (COP21), held a climate discussion with students across the state on December 14 at the University of Washington. The College of the Environment and Dean Lisa Graumlich hosted the governor for the conversation, where Inslee’s renewed determination to address climate issues here at home struck a chord with UW students and faculty working on the front lines of climate research every day.

“I’m here with the message that the world is with us and when we lead, we won’t be alone,” Inslee said. “There’s every chance to solve this problem, and your generation gets it. I’m reminded today of how important your generation is on this.”

As a student at the University of Washington, Inslee studied energy use in Sweden and was in Stockholm for the UN Scientific Conference, or First Earth Summit, in 1972. The culmination of that event was an action plan containing recommendations for international environmental action, raising the issue of climate change for the first time and warning governments to be mindful of activities that could lead to climate change. With the 2015 Paris Agreement reached at COP21, ministers from 195 countries adopted by consensus a legally binding agreement to fight climate change.

“After 45 years, to see the world make this progress—it’s gratifying and it’s a good start. But it’s only a start. What happened in Paris gave us a chance to tackle this,” Inslee said.

In Paris, Inslee put Washington’s efforts to combat climate change on the international stage, met with dozens of leaders and businesses from across the world, and developed agreements on climate action collaboration. At the UW, he highlighted his work toward developing a cap on carbon emissions in Washington, the need for innovation in solar and battery storage to lessen Washingtonians’ dependence on fossil fuels, and the opportunities associated with creating a green jobs economy in the region.

Inslee also wanted to hear from event attendees, undergraduate and graduate students, and asked what older generations might be missing when it comes to the subject of climate. Answers included their parents and grandparents’ lack of an ecological worldview, different generational values—natural versus economic, and the media’s portrayal of climate change as a debate.

The governor, who said he’s optimistic about what we can accomplish if we follow the science, encouraged everyone to seek out a skill set they’re passionate about and get involved. That sentiment resonated with Environmental and Forest Sciences’ Natalie Gray, who said:

“He encouraged us to find what we can do and do it. No one is going to tell each and every individual how they can fit into the global scheme. It takes some soul searching. Educate yourself about what’s going on and keep a positive outlook, but find what you can do and do it.”

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu

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