Inslee to Pence: ‘Wake up and smell the carbon dioxide, Mike.’

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called for the United States to “break this addiction to fossil fuels” in announcing the fourth iteration of his climate plan at the edge of the Everglades on Monday morning.

“Mike Pence said we now have the cleanest air in the world, that there’s nothing to worry about from pollution in fossil fuels. Wake up and smell the carbon dioxide, Mike,” said Inslee, going on to explain that carbon dioxide levels are higher now than at any other point in human history.

Inslee was speaking at Everglades Holiday Park, just seven miles from a site that was the subject of a recent legal battle over drilling rights. The venue was a strategic choice for Inslee’s pro-environment campaign. Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals ruled that Kanter Real Estate, LLC had the right to drill an exploratory oil well. The decision raised concerns among environmentalists, who fear drilling could jeopardize the aquifer that provides drinking water for more than 6 million residents in South Florida.

Punctuated by the roar and thrum of passing airboats, Inslee said that South Florida is “ground zero” for climate change. He pointed to the hundreds of millions of dollars that the city of Miami Beach has spent elevating roads and building walls to protect the barrier island from rising seas and peak tides.

Inslee is running on a single-issue environmental protection platform. Within that is an immigration component for migrants displaced by climate change and an infrastructure plan that rejects new oil pipelines and emphasizes climate resiliency for new transit projects.

How much of a threat does climate change pose? Inslee is blunt.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination with a campaign that focuses on the environment, answers questions from the media while riding an airboat at Everglades Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Monday, June 24, 2019. Charlie Ortega Guifarro cguifarro@miamiherald.com

“There is only one method of winning, just like there is only one method of defeating fascism, and that is total victory,” Inslee said. “We cannot win half of this battle, just like we couldn’t win half of World War II. The middle ground is a fatal position.”

Inslee’s speech followed the release of his 29-page “Freedom from Fossil Fuels” climate policy plan, which marks the most detailed environmental policy among the current field of Democratic presidential candidates. The plan calls for stricter regulations for the fossil fuel industry, an end to fossil fuel subsidies and fees for major industrial polluters. The plan would ban new oil and natural gas pipelines and all new transit projects would need to meet climate resiliency requirements.

In response to concerns about coal industry workers, Inslee emphasized the importance of job retraining and said coal workers “deserve the truth and a plan.”

“We have a transition out of coal that is going on anyway,” Inslee said. “We’ve had two-thirds of our coal plants shut down anyway, because other sources of energy were becoming cheaper, and certainly cleaner.

“Donald Trump is lying to these families and telling them that he’s going to bring back coal,” he said.

On an airboat ride following his speech, Inslee witnessed native grasses giving way to fat cattails that thrive in phosphorus-rich runoff from farms upstream from the Everglades.

Referencing the book “Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells, Inslee expressed that he has hope for the future because ultimately, humans are in control of leading causes of climate change.

“We control the use of fossil fuels. This is us,” said Inslee. “... We gotta get a president to make sure we do that.”