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Why the climate campaign is the most important campaign, with Gov. Jay Inslee: podcast and transcript

Chris Hayes speaks with Washington governor and current Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee about the climate crisis.

Gov. Jay Inslee is running a presidential campaign unlike any other. The Washington governor is basing his run on the fundamental organizing premise that the climate crisis is more important than anything else. It’s a unique strategy that comes at a time when more and more people are recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis. But while climate is moving up on the list of issues voters care about, Gov. Inslee is making the case that it’s not just "an issue — it’s the issue."

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Look, there's only one party that has the possibility of saving humanity here. It's the Democratic Party. It would be a good thing to brand our party as the party who cares about this.

CHRIS HAYES: It's so sad that that is like a not hyperbolic statement.

Hello and welcome to "Why Is This Happening?" with me, your host, Chris Hayes. Well, here I am with doing an intro, because the feedback from last episode was very pro-intro. So, here we go back at it.

Back in 2004 before I was a full-time writer, I was 25 years old, and I was very invested in the election that year, which was George W. Bush running for reelection against John Kerry. So, I took two months, almost three months, and I went to work for the League of Conservation Voters, which was operating a field program in Dane County, which is the county around Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is obviously a very liberal place, but the suburbs around it are sort of swingy-er. I was knocking on doors there trying to persuade persuadable voters to vote for John Kerry and not George W. Bush.

When I was done with that endeavor, I wrote an article for the New Republic, which we'll link to on the website, it's still up there on the internet, which was about some of the things I learned while I was talking to undecided voters. One of the things that was really interesting to me was that they didn't have a very crystal-clear concept of issues and what an issue was.

It was striking to me. If you're a political junkie and someone said to you like, "Well, what are the big issues?" and you could very obviously label them. There are categories of things, like immigration is an issue. Health care is an issue. Trade. Trade with China is an issue. Right? You can even get more kind of like bespoke in issues like land use policy is an issue, but you have a sense of the category is a coherent entity.

When you think about it, it's kind of a weird alchemical process that produces an issue as a coherent category. If you go back and you look at American politics, there's different periods of time where things are issues that to us like make no sense. There was 60 years in American politics where alcohol prohibition and alcohol intemperance were a main issue, like huge issue that people fought over. That's not an issue anymore. That issue was resolved essentially.

Then there's times when things become really big issues and then fade, like the Panama Canal and who controls the Panama Canal was a very big issue at a certain point. It was an issue that people got worked up about and they would rant about, which now's a little ridiculous. Most of us can't recall like, "What were they fighting about with the ... There was something back in the day."

So, there's this very interesting thing that happens that I'm very interested in is, how does an issue get formed as an issue. A big part of politics, even before you can win an issue, is to make something an issue. Right? Before you can win an issue, you have to create the coherent political category of the issue. Ten years ago, there was no issue of cash bail. Cash bail was not an issue. It was just the way a court worked. You got arraigned, you got indicted, and then you had cash bail. If you didn't have the money, you went to Rikers.

Now cash bail is an issue. Should we get rid of cash bail? The reason cash bail is an issue is because organizers work to make it an issue. So, now there's a fight. You have to have a policy. If you're running for district attorney, particularly if you've got a progressive challenger, you're going to debate and you're going to have to have a position on whether you favor doing away with cash bail.

So, there's this remarkable alchemical process that's like if you think of a snow-capped mountain, the snow at the top are the issues that we all know. Then underneath it is the mountain, which is like all of human life and society and all the frictions that involves. We kind of ... The stuff at the top is just like a little small part of what our full political life is, but it's the job of organizers to bring that into focus.

I think about this a lot with respect to climate. Climate is now an issue. If you run for president as a Democratic candidate and you say to someone, "Build my website," and they say, "I'll build your website. There's an issues tab, and then there's going to be a drop-down menu," there's got to a be a climate portion. That's how you know. Right? When you're making the issues menu on the website. That's been the work of a lot of activists.

There's immigration, health care, climate. One of the things we're seeing is climate is moving up the priority list. When you ask Democratic voters what issues matter most, climate's at the top. There's a question of whether that's enough, because climate arguably isn't like any other issue.

David Wallace-Wells on this podcast when we talked about his book about this sort of future of the climate said, "The climate is like modernity. It's the thing that we all exist in." Modernity isn't an issue. I mean, it has manifestations. Right? There are political fights over the manifestations of modernity or the Industrial Revolution, and urbanization, and the labor condition that created, but it's everything.

Climate is almost definitionally everything. Everything that we do, you right now, listener hearing me in your ear holes, you and I are both existing in the climate as a definitional matter. If the climate is in crisis, there is an argument that that is the ur-issue. It just doesn't fit comfortably in that menu on the website in the same way that other things do, like the minimum wage, how many refugees we should let in. Right?

There's a case to be made that just in a conceptual sense, the climate is something bigger. The climate crisis is something bigger than an issue. That is the conceit of the campaign of my guest today. Jay Inslee is a Democratic governor of the state of Washington. He was a former congressman. He's a really interesting guy, and he's running for president. It's the first time we've had a presidential candidate on the podcast. He's running an interesting, strange and different campaign. He is running a campaign whose fundamental organizing premise is that the climate crisis is more important than anything else, that the climate crisis is everything, that the reason he's running for president is to confront the climate crisis. He is a climate candidate.

What's fascinating to me about that is two things. One, it's a totally different way to run for president, but it also is the first time I've heard a politician really talk about climate at this existential level in the way that David Wallace-Wells does, that this is the totalizing challenge.

So, I'm not necessarily someone who's like on the podcast ... I get to talk to the Democratic candidates all the time on the show. I necessarily want to sit down with all of them. Because of that, because of the distinctness of what Jay Inslee is trying to do and because of my own belief that he's correct in one key way, which is that it is the case the climate is the all-enveloping issue of our time, I wanted to sit down with him for an hour and just have him explain to me how he thinks about what he's doing in running for president as the climate candidate.

Where did you grow up?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Seattle, Washington. My dad was a coach and biology teacher, and my mom was a retail clerk. They spent summers fixing the Mount Rainier Alpine meadows.

CHRIS HAYES: Were you a high school football player?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I was a high school quarterback. My defensive coach said that was not really a football position. He never considered quarterbacks a real football player, but I enjoyed playing the game.

CHRIS HAYES: Then you were a college player, right?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I played freshman basketball at Stanford.

CHRIS HAYES: You never played on the team there, football?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: No, no, no, football, no.

CHRIS HAYES: All right, yeah.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I watched Jim Plunkett and my college freshman roommate, who was the number one recruit that year in America, Jim Wise, I watched his ascension. I went on and played catch with him the first day I was at Stanford, and I noticed that I could throw it maybe 40 yards and he could throw 60 yards on a frozen rope. So, I recognized his talent.

CHRIS HAYES: You knew what ... Yeah, right. What sort of got you into politics?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I was practicing law, raising three kids in the apple orchards in a small town in Eastern Washington, agricultural, Republican district. They were going to start having to double-shift our high school. Trudi and I thought that was nuts.

CHRIS HAYES: What do you mean double-shift?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Meaning you have to have two shifts in your high school, because there wasn't room for everybody in the high school.

CHRIS HAYES: Oh, I see. So, the high school was overcrowded-

GOV. JAY INSLEE: The high school was absolutely crowded.

CHRIS HAYES: Rather than build a new building-

GOV. JAY INSLEE: So, instead of building a new building, they were going to start double-shifting. I said, "Well, this is crazy. Why don't we build a new high school?" The community said ... because we have failed six bond issues in a row. Trudi and I were naïve-

CHRIS HAYES: So, six times they had tried to-

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Six times.

CHRIS HAYES: ... pass a bond issue-


CHRIS HAYES: ... that would have given the capital to build a new school.


CHRIS HAYES: Six times the taxpayers, your neighbors, had been like, "No way."

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That's correct. So, Trudi and I were new to town. We were politically naïve, and we said, "Well, let's give it a seventh try." Another couple and I, and we co-chaired the effort, and we passed it on the seventh try. The way we did it I thought was kind of genius, because we ran ads showing blackness on the screen. You'd hear somebody snoring, and then you would hear an alarm bell go off and you'd hear this guy griping, "It's three o'clock. What are we doing?" Then you hear the wife's voice as the light went on, "Well Harvey, you should have voted for the Selah School Bond, and we wouldn't have had to get up at three o'clock in the morning." So, we passed it on the-

CHRIS HAYES: As a parent of three kids, that's a pretty good argument.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: So, we passed it on the seventh try. Shortly thereafter, the chatter heads in the legislature cut the funding in half, so all of a sudden we didn't have enough money to build a school. So, I became angry about it. I started to go raise holy hell about it and then decided I should run for the legislature, and that's what I did and won another huge upset. Here we are.

CHRIS HAYES: How old were you?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I was about 38. I'd never thought about politics before, and it was like a lot of people. My entry into public life was a response to something that I was angry about. I didn't think it was just that our community to pass this school bond, and then all of a sudden we get cut half from the state funding. So, I have been at school funding for a long time, and I'm still at it. I'm very pleased in the last session of my legislature, we just passed one of the largest infusions of money into our school system in state history. We did it on a bipartisan basis. We also passed, finally, the largest teacher and educator compensation increase in America this year, which I'm very pleased about. So, this has been a long time passion of mine.

CHRIS HAYES: I wanted to just go back for one second, which is, you grew up in Seattle. You went to Stanford. For folks that don't know the state of Washington, Eastern Washington, and the sort of Seattle, Western Washington area and the Eastern Washington are pretty different places in terrain, in culture, and in politics certainly.


CHRIS HAYES: Eastern Washington, which is adjacent to Idaho, is a very rural, conservative place.


CHRIS HAYES: What brought you up there?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, let's see. I sort of went broke at Stanford, went back to the University of Washington, and then went to law school in Oregon. My wife and I wanted to raise our children in a small town. We wanted to have a little bit of adventure outside of the known territory of Seattle. So, we went to a small town called Selah, Washington. It was a town of 3,000. This is in the middle of the apple orchards.

I practiced law and we raised alfalfa. I may be the only alfalfa grower in presidential race — we'll have to check on this. Enjoyed it. It was a great experience and I loved the community, but it was very, very red, Conservative, Republican area. So, I won two legislative races, and then won a congressional race in a huge upset in Central Washington. Then in 1994, a bill came up to ban assault weapons. I knew that if I voted to ban assault weapons I would be relieved of duty by the voters.

CHRIS HAYES: Because you were in a ... You were a member of Congress from a district that was largely rural-

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Very rural.

CHRIS HAYES: ... and pretty pro-gun.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: 60 to 65 percent Republican.

CHRIS HAYES: How many terms did you serve there?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Just one term there in that district, congressional term. I had two state legislative terms.

CHRIS HAYES: Oh, that's right. Okay.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: So, I voted for the assault weapon bill knowing that I would lose in the next election, and both of those things happened. I just want to tell you, I've never regretted that vote. I've always thought that was the right vote, never regretted it.

CHRIS HAYES: You got beat by a Republican challenger?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Got beat in 1994 by a challenger, a guy I had beat the previous term in 1992. Then we moved back to the Seattle area, and then I went back to Congress in 1998 having defeated an incumbent Republican, one of only two defeated that year. I was back in a different congressional district. So, I have a very-

CHRIS HAYES: That's wild.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: You could do a novel about this.

CHRIS HAYES: In Seattle Metro area?


CHRIS HAYES: What did you learn from that defeat in '94?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That A, defeat is very, very painful-

CHRIS HAYES: Personally, it hurts.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Personally. You know, it hurts. It stings. I know this sounds weird, but I enjoyed being in Congress. I thought I was really doing good work. I helped get our apples into Japan. I got a water bill through that saved the agricultural industry in Central Washington to some degree. So, I had really great success as a new member of Congress. I'd moved my family 2,500 miles and had our kids in public school in D.C. So, it's just painful-

CHRIS HAYES: Oh, the kids came out?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Kids came out.


GOV. JAY INSLEE: Here's the other part though, and I'm very sincere about this, I never regretted the loss because it was based on a vote of principle. It was something that I do believe had a capacity and did save lives over time while it was in place. It did help move the gun safety needle forward to some degree, and my vote was one of the pivotal votes.

When Chuck Schumer called me, they were only three votes short. So, I cast one of the pivotal votes to actually get it through. What I learned is that when you do things out of principle, you will not regret them and life will go on. If you're lucky and persistent and the ball bounces your way, you may be back in public life at some point.

CHRIS HAYES: Although, it's kind of a fascinating story about ... I mean, your trajectory here is a really interesting story about the kind of dynamics of spacial, partisan polarization that's happening in the country. Right?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Yep, but-

CHRIS HAYES: You're a Seattle guy.


CHRIS HAYES: You go out, you move to this rural district, it's a conservative district but you're able to get elected. Then you're basically blown up over a thing where you don't agree with your constituents. I mean, at some level they're kind of right to vote you out if they care about-

GOV. JAY INSLEE: They certainly have that right.

CHRIS HAYES: Then you go back to Metro Seattle, and you're elected there.


CHRIS HAYES: How many terms do you serve there?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, I gave up counting at seven, I think. Then went to the governor's office in 2012 ... By the way, I left something out. I lost the primary for the governorship in 1996 as well. I have a "War and Peace" type of novel about my political history. It is. This polarization of the country is very challenging to us who do serve in public life.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. There's no way Jay Inslee now could win that out in Eastern Washington where you started.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, I never say no, but there are some things-

CHRIS HAYES: You didn't win that district in your gubernatorial races.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I did in 1994. Did not win in the governor's races, but did better than most candidates.

CHRIS HAYES: Sure, over-performed. I'm just saying, my point being that it's like ... I feel like there's two things that are happening, and it's hard to get your head around it. One is that you don't want to give up on people in places.


CHRIS HAYES: Everyone deserves representation. They deserve your open heart and mind. Right?


CHRIS HAYES: As a journalist, as a politician. It's also the case that certain parts of the country are just super Conservative. That's their beliefs and their values.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Right. I will say two points about that. Number one, you do have an obligation and desire to know them, to converse with them,-

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, 100 percent.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: ... to be open to them to serve their need-

CHRIS HAYES: To listen to them.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: ... and to listen to them. That's very important. But electorally, you should not give up one these communities either. Because frankly, and I'm just going to speak electorally, one of the secrets of success is to do four or five points better in small town in the Midwest to get elected.

CHRIS HAYES: 100 percent, yes.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: It is entirely possible to do that. I prove that in my electorals. I won three out of four elections in a very Republican area. I know I feel very much at home in small towns. I'm a guy who did hang with farmers and orchardists and did grow alfalfa, and now have a message of clean energy jobs growth, which really works in small town America. Building electric cars in relatively small towns in Michigan, putting up wind turbines in rural Iowa, making carbon fiber in Moses Lake to go in electric cars, a small town in Eastern Washington, doing biofuels in Grace Harbor, which is a small town in Western Washington on the coastline.

So, I have messages that I think can help us perform better — if I end up being the nominee — in small town America around job creation. We proved this in the last election cycle, when I was chair of the DGA and we won seven governor's races, because we did have people talking about meat and potato jobs issues. They did do better in small town than the previous electoral cycle, because we did converse with these communities.

CHRIS HAYES: That point's a really important one, which is we end up thinking in these binary terms but the margins are everything. I mean, Sherrod Brown is a U.S. senator because, sure he gets huge amounts of votes from Columbus and Cleveland, but he does better ... his margins are better than, say, Hillary Clinton or another statewide Democrat in places that are outside those big metros. He doesn't win them.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That's correct.

CHRIS HAYES: He just does a little bit better.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: You just do a little bit better, and that's how you win. Now here's also an important fallacy to point out. I think some people feel that it is inconsistent to want to do better by three or four points in small town America and also purvey the progressive values that I've advanced in the state of Washington. I've been the first governor who spoke against the Muslim ban, having done the first net neutrality, having the best gender pay equity in the United States, having passed the first public option in the United States. So, we've done all of these progressive things in my state, and advancing those causes is not inconsistent with doing better in small towns while you talk about job creation at all.

CHRIS HAYES: So, you've been governor since 2012.


CHRIS HAYES: When did you start to get, for the lack of a better word, religion on climate?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, I've been a convert ... Let me push back just a little bit about the religion issue, because it is not a religious conviction. It is a scientific validity. I think that's an important thing. I know you're just kind of teasing when you say it that way-

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, right.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: ... but it is a point. If tomorrow the scientific consensus changed, I'd change my heartbeat. If tomorrow somebody can prove the climate crisis was a hoax and a myth, boom, I-

CHRIS HAYES: By the way, that would be awesome.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That would be awesome. We would-

CHRIS HAYES: I see people say this all the time I think, or I see people say, "Science is going to figure it out," or, "Maybe we're wrong." I think, good god, nothing I hope for more fervently than that we are wrong about all this. Please let us be wrong.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I would be ecstatic to be able to just celebrate the World Cup Women's win and quit worrying about the climate crisis. Okay, that would be great.


GOV. JAY INSLEE: I have been very much following the science since, well, in 1992 when I ran for Congress. Trudi pulled out one of my old campaign brochures, and I had in there that we have to fight carbon dioxide. That was in 1992. I then became active with a group in the mid-1990s hanging around the University of Washington on this subject. Then beat a Republican in 1998 on environmental issues and was very active in Congress, introduced legislation in the early 2000s. Wrote a book about this 12 years ago. I co-authored a book on this subject.

Why am I so passionate about this? Two things. One, I'm a son of a biology teacher. I just follow science. I think you've got to be led by science. People who argue with me about this or want to argue with me about it say, "Look, you're not arguing with me. You've got to argue with the scientific community. You've got to argue with Sir Isaac Newton and Einstein. Those are the guys you've got to go argue with."

I've been at that scientific assertion for a long, long time. Now it is a very personal thing with me. Several months ago when I was thinking about running for president, that's something you think seriously about obviously, because I've loved being governor. I've been very successful and got a great thing going in our state, but I just really want to be able to look at my three grandkids on my last day, literally, and tell them, "Look, I did everything I could possibly do to save you from the climate crisis." So, I'm running for president.

CHRIS HAYES: Do you feel like that's true about your governorship?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: In what way? What do you mean?

CHRIS HAYES: Can you say you've done everything you could possibly do on carbon emissions and climate for the state?


CHRIS HAYES: Have you reduced emissions?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: They are going to go down under our new rules. They have gone up while I've been governor, because we have had economic growth and population growth.

CHRIS HAYES: Right, but this is the thing to me. It's like ... I'm not saying this to at all doubt your sincerity at all. When I'm in my darkest places about this problem, I think to myself, "Well, all right, Jay Inslee. Good for Jay Inslee. He's running on climate." It's like, "What's he doing as governor?" It's like, "Well, he's doing some good stuff, but he had a Republican opposition. He didn't have unified control." "Well, what are emission in his state?" "Well, they're going up." It's like if Jay Inslee's state's emissions are going up under Jay Inslee's leadership, we're screwed.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Chris, I want you to be able to get up every morning and not be clinically depressed, so I'm going to give you some really good news hear. Okay? If you've got to accept some good news, the cavalry has arrived. So, we won ten seats in the state legislature. As a result of that-


GOV. JAY INSLEE: In 2018. So, as a result, we had a Democratic Senate for the first time.

CHRIS HAYES: Just to be clear, you had a Republican Senate starting in 2012.


CHRIS HAYES: You had a Republican Senate.


CHRIS HAYES: Then in 2018, you turned it over to what people call trifecta. Right? So, unified Democratic governance.


CHRIS HAYES: Governor, House, Senate.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: As a result of that, we have now passed bills that are about 80 percent of what I have asked to pass. We've passed the country's best 100 percent clean electrical grid bill that will require fossil fuel grid and a carbon neutral grid by 2035. Best in the country because it also embraces very strong environmental justice provisions to make sure the jobs we create are well paid union jobs to make sure that we focus on the frontline communities that have been the first victims of the climate change crisis.

Image: People's Climate March
Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue during the People's Climate March in Washington D.C., on April, 29, 2017.Jose Luis Magana / AFP - Getty Images file

We passed the country's best energy efficiency program. That is the first in the nation that will require retrofitting for our commercial building so that we can have much more energy efficiency. And today I visited a union training program with SCIU where they train building superintendents about how to ring efficiency out of your buildings. And you can get enormous efficiencies tuning your boiler, putting in energy efficient lights and the like. We passed a ban on super pollutants.

We reinvigorated our incentive program to help people get access to electric cars. So I'm very confident that these measure will result in reductions of emissions-

CHRIS HAYES: Even through periods of population and economic growth?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Yes. And they are very strong.

CHRIS HAYES: But you don't have a cap.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: We do not have a cap, yet. Take this back. We do have a cap if I win a case in my state Supreme Court in the next couple of months. So I actually imposed a cap. It was the first actual cap created by executive order in the country. A trial court made a small mistake and invalidated it, and that is now on appeal in my state's Supreme Court.


GOV. JAY INSLEE: So if that is affirmed we will have the most binding cap on carbon in the United States.

CHRIS HAYES: And that will say, "This is the limit for our state."

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That's correct. Every industry over a certain level of emissions will be required to reduce their emissions of a certain percentage over time. It will be the strongest carbon emission reduction program in the United States. I am hopeful that I will prevail in the state Supreme Court. There's good reason to believe we will. My Attorney General says we're on very good ground. So I hope that that will happen. If that does not happen we will back to the legislature next session.

We need one or two votes to pass what I proposed, which is a clean fuel standard for transportation. That's the one part, the piece of the puzzle we've got to fix in Washington.

CHRIS HAYES: Do you have a renewable portfolio standard for the state?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: We do, and we passed it by initiative. I was very active in that 10 years ago, and-

CHRIS HAYES: So that's been there for a while.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That's correct, and it's been incredibly successful.

CHRIS HAYES: If people just don't know, the renewable portfolio standard is probably, at the state level, the single most, one of the most effective means of reduction, and particularly in terms of seeding vibrant alternative energy markets. And also, there's actually quite a very good one in Texas. There's a pretty good one in Iowa. This is not something that has been solely the purview of Democratic controlled states. It's actually fairly popular and been done all over the country.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: They've been very successful, and we brought it to the people in the initiative, the energy companies screamed that this is going to blow up your utility bills. And it simply has not happened. We've created a six billion dollar wind industry in the state of Washington, and the same thing has happened Iowa. 30 percent, they've got about 30 percent of their electricity in Iowa coming from wind now.

CHRIS HAYES: And just to explain it to folks, the standard basically requires that a certain percentage for the utilities, a certain percentage to their power has to come from non-fossil fuel sources.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Correct. And so far all of them have been successful across the United States, including in Texas as you indicated. And so I would recommend it to everyone, but we've just got to ramp that up. Now, we've extended that if you will to 100 percent, in our 100 percent electrical grid bill that just passed.

CHRIS HAYES: So explain that. What does that mean?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: It basically means that we, by law, we have a regulatory requirement that utilities will be carbon neutral by 2035. That means that their emissions have to be neutral if you look at their entire portfolio. And they have to be fossil free by 2045. That means that we will not be burning fossil fuel to produce electricity at the last date by 2045, and this is a binding law. It is not a hope. It is not a wish. It is not a dream. It is binding.

And I point this out because I think some folks, including some running for president, have sort of wanted to sneak through this thing saying, "We're going to have some system in 2050. It'll do good things." But you need more than that. You really need binding requirements that have been so useful to us in our environmental work over the last two decades.

CHRIS HAYES: I wanted to talk about the politics of this for a second. There was a ballot initiative also in 2018. Right?


CHRIS HAYES: Explain to me what that was.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: There was an issue in 2018. It would've created a carbon fee or tax, depending on who you listen to. It would be used-

CHRIS HAYES: I can imagine what the proponents called it, and what the opponents called it.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: The opponents spent $32 million dollars, and some of it was information that was not entirely incredibly credible. But when you have $32 million dollars with the fossil fuel behind, the oil and gas industry. And they created some doubt in the voters’ minds about some of the technical parts of the program, and it went down to defeat rather decisively.

So we were undaunted by that because we knew A, climate change was getting worse anyway. B, we were convinced that we could create jobs in our state. So I introduced five bills that would, as a package, achieve the same level of carbon reduction.

CHRIS HAYES: This is a little wonky, but let's go there for a second. The policy problem is carbon emissions keep going up. Carbon pollution is a thing that's warming the atmosphere. We need to start zeroing out our carbon emissions. And the policy solution for a long time has been either cap and trade or cap and dividend. And basically the idea is you put a cap on carbon, and then companies trade for carbon credits. That's what happens in cap and trade. Or you put a tax on carbon, a carbon tax, like a cigarette tax or something.

That money then goes into general revenue, or people get it in their households. But the entire idea behind it, I'm just doing this for folks that are not familiar with this, is that you put a price on carbon. Right? So the idea is that carbon pollution is an externality in economics terminology. It's a thing that costs all of us, but the people producing it don't have to pay the cost. And that's like polluting the river. It's much cheaper to pollute in the river and let someone else clean it up, but that's an externality.

So for a long time, as long as I've been covering carbon, that's the central thing. Price on carbon. Price on carbon. Price the externality. That's a tough political sell. Do you agree?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Through experience, clearly because I was very, very active-

CHRIS HAYES: You wanted that thing passed.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: ... very active, trying to pass the cap and trade bill back in 2009 in the U.S. House, and it passed the U.S. House, and then the Obama administration decided to move forward on health care rather than climate. So health care happened, climate did not. And I believe that a price on carbon is an elegant solution. In my plan, we actually propose a price on carbon starting with the industrial sector.

But I have come conclude two very important things. Number one, we don't have time to just let the elegance of a price be the only measure of success here. We just do not have time. The science has been clear that we have to get off coal in 10 years. We have to get off natural gas in 15 year in electrical grid, and we have no other option. The science has made this clear, and the most effective and the only politically tenable route to do that is through a regulatory system.

Now, we know this works. You go back to the early 1970s where the smog was so bad you couldn't see Mount Rainier from Seattle, right? And we decided instead of using the elegant means of a price on catalytic converters, we passed a law saying, "You will put catalytic converters on our cars.” And the auto industry squawked, but they did it, and the air cleaned up. And we have to follow that success story again with the regulatory standard.

CHRIS HAYES: Old-fashioned hammer regulation mandates.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: This mandate is required by science and it is required by politics, and I'll tell you why. Because it is impossible, I believe, to pass a pricing system today that would achieve the same regulatory approach at the levels of the price that we'd require to do that.

CHRIS HAYES: What's interesting about it too, is that I feel like actually the politics of it maybe are better. I mean, I've been thinking a lot about this, and if you say we're going to put a price on carbon, people recognize that they pay for energy. I pay for carbon. When I put my lights on, when I fill up my car, I'm aware of that. Everyone's aware of that. If you say, “Well, we got to price that.” It's like, “Well, I buy that. So I'm going to pay for that.” If you have to say we have to mandate those people over there, industry, utilities of fossil fuel companies, that actually seems like an easier sell to me.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: By 1000 percent. And that's one of the reasons I'm proposing it. And we've had success as I've indicated. We passed four measures that are the best in the United States on this.

CHRIS HAYES: I mean, the argument of course the fossil fuel companies will make is, “That's just the wording, but you're going to end up paying one way or the other.” Right? That's what they say.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Yes, that's what they say.

CHRIS HAYES: And not completely baselessly.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, in a sense not. That's not really true though because we went through this in renewable portfolio standard. They said utility rates were going to skyrocket. Now, what has happened, and because of the genius of the American economy, and the genius in the American people, in virtually every environmental regulatory system that we have enacted, the market has responded with technological changes that essentially have no additional cost because they've driven investments, they've driven R&D, the market has responded to bring these new technologies on at no cost.

When people said we were going to go to win and solar, they said, “Oh, it'll cost you ten times as much.” Well, the market responded, cost for solar panels have come down 80 percent in the last ten years. Cost of wind has come down 20 percent, and as a result clean energy jobs are growing twice as fast as the U.S. economy. We understate how flexible technology is, repeatedly.

CHRIS HAYES: I completely agree with that, and in fact I think one of the great examples of this is cellphones in the developing world in the Global South where in the developed countries you had landlines and then you had cellphones. Throughout the Global South they never got the landlines, but they just went right to the cellphones.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: You skip a generation. And anybody who doubts the technological arc of electric cars, look at the arc of cellphones in your own life. Look how fast they've come on to become ubiquitous. We had the same opportunity today in electrifying the transportation system. And going to renewable system in the grid, and I believe that that is happening before our eyes. And I see it in real terms.

This is not an abstraction for me. I mentioned this Moses Lake, Washington, a small town in eastern Washington. I used to represent it. It is the largest manufacturer of carbon fiber that goes into the bodies of carbon fiber electric cars right now, and it's a small town in Eastern Washington, put hundreds of people to work. This is not like a dream or hallucination or a chart on somebody's graph. It's actually happening all across the country.

CHRIS HAYES: I want to circle back again to the politics of this issue, and then I want to talk about your president run right after this.

You've had some successes and you've had some defeats. I mean, you worked on the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill when you were in the House. You've passed these very sort of forward leaning policies as governor or signed them into law. You dealt a defeat on the ballot initiative.

There's this crazy story that happened in your neighboring state over climate legislation in which the Republicans just left the state and sort of kind of implicitly intimated that maybe armed militias would rally around them to protect them from the governor bringing them back, and then won the standoff. The Democrats abandoned the climate bill in the face of the intransigents.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Yeah. The story I heard is they simply did not have the votes ultimately in the Democratic party to pass it. So-

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, in the Democratic party, right. Although I don’t think it ... I mean, the resistance seems to have helped.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: We were looking for a way to take those errant legislatures into custody if they were on my side of the boarder, but we didn't find we had authority to do it, so we had to resolve it in other ways. Look, here is one thing I've learned, you ask about a lesson in this, is that I have had a discovery about renewable energy, and that is that the most powerful, the most important renewable energy is the power of perseverance.

We just have to persevere. Failure is not an option here. Churchill said that "England cannot stand alone." And he said, "No, no, victory is the only option, because without victory there is no survival." This is the same situation here. So yes, we have had multiple defeats. We'll probably have some more defeats, but we're going to win them because there's no other option here.

CHRIS HAYES: But I want you to talk about what the nature of the resistance is, because I think there's an interesting thing that happens. There's embedded industrial interests that have a lot of money on the line, the fossil fuel companies. But there's also the nature of political opposition, the culture of conservatism and opposition where it can become a kind of almost culture war issue like, “You're coming for my way of life now." And you see this now with the way Fox News talks about the Green New Deal.

Image: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey speak during a press conference to announce Green New Deal legislation to promote clean energy programs
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey speak during a press conference to announce Green New Deal legislation to promote clean energy programs outside the Capitol.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file

“They're going to take your burger. They're going to take your car. They, these pointy headed remote liberal weirdos are going to tell you hardworking middle American how you can live.” And there's a kind of a potency to that. And I just think on what terrain do you fight that? How do you see that political rhetorical battle?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: It's a losing battle for Donald Trump. And the reason I know it's a losing battle is he essentially told us this two days ago.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. I had the exact same read on it.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Because he went out there and his pundits and his team said, “Look, we're in deep trouble boss. Your approval rating on environment is 29 percent. You have to bring up that approval rating because you're getting killed in broad swaths of American on this issue.” So he went out there tried to, the farcical effort to say he was an environmentalist. Who would do that unless in an act of great desperation? They are losing this battle, and I believe it is the very weakest place or chink in the armor of Donald Trump, because it's the weakest part of his entire portfolio, and that we would be wise to nominate the strongest nominee we can on this issue. And it won't shock you who I would nominate for that.

So I believe they are losing this battle, and the reason they are losing this battle, and I recognize what you're saying. This is exactly what they say. Is because people are now seeing this in their real lives. When I wrote a book, or co-authored a book 12 years ago about this, this was just a chart on a graph. It was just a line of parts per million going up the chart. Now it's Paradise, California burned to the ground, and it's Davenport, Iowa under water. And it's the Miami waterfront inundated, and it's 3.3 inches of rain in Washington D.C., and now New Orleans under water. My nephew couldn't get out of his hotel the other day because of the rain in New Orleans.

CHRIS HAYES: I have the general of the same sense. One of the things you've been doing in campaigning is going to these frontline areas that have suffered through climate disasters. I can never tell because it's a little self-selecting whether people are putting that together or not.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: And answer is they are of their own common sense, and the objective evidence to this is that in the last 12 months the polling on this has moved 12 points. That is a dramatic shift. And so it is clear that the American people are, and there is a very distinct difference between Republican citizens and Republican politicians. About half of registered Republican voters, when you ask them, "Is climate change a problem? Should we do something about it?" They will say, "Yes."

But virtually zero of the Republican politicians will say that. Why? Because they're all captured by the fossil fuel industry, and they are afraid of the combination of getting cut off by the fossil fuel industry, and worried about a primary for Donald Trump. They're worried about the shadow of Donald Trump. So there is-

CHRIS HAYES: In some ways I tend to think in my analysis it's almost the latter that matters more. They could probably find some replacement money, the thing that scares the hell out of them.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That may be true. And so you are seeing a rapid shift on this in the American public, including vast numbers of Republican voters, but they are not getting representation. And we dream and hope for the emergence of Teddy Roosevelt's spirit again. I keep looking forward to that. It is not emerged yet. We really don't have any partners yet. We hope that they will emerge. And until they emerge they just have to be removed from office, and that is happening.

Look, we won seven governorships. I was chair of the Democratic governors last year, and we got seven new Democratic governors. In part, all of whom who believe climate change was a problem we should deal with. We had 40 new members of Congress. We had 10 new legislators in my state. I do believe the American public understands this now. They are making that connection, and people have asked, what could I do to convince them? I'm not convincing them. The facts are convincing them. The images of Oprah's house under a mudslide, and Paradise, California burned to the ground.

Image: Paradise fire, utility PG&E
Businesses continue to burn under a darkened smoky sky in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on Nov. 9, 2018.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images file

That's what convincing them. I think we're reaching a tipping point. And I look at this as the cresting of two waves that are at the same moment, the urgency wave, the pinnacle of recognition of the urgency of this is happening. At the same moment that the potential of economic growth and job creation is cresting as well. So it's a magic moment, we just need a leader in my book to spark that.

CHRIS HAYES: So you're running for President of the United States. You're one of, depending on how you count, 25, 24 Democrats who are running. You were in the first debate. You'll qualify I think for the second, right?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Yes. We'll be in Detroit. Yes.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. You'll be in Detroit. I want you to respond to the most cynical interpretation of your run here, which is basically like it's an extremely crowded field. You're a very accomplished political. You've served in different levels of government. You've been a two term governor. There's a time in my life, particularly I think back in the 1990s particularly where when you were thinking about presidential candidates it was all like who are the governors. That was always the crop that you chose from particularly because of the success of then Reagan, Carter, Clinton, W., all governors.

That's less the case now I think because Barack Obama and Donald Trump have very different backgrounds. Basically you and your team looked out there and it's like, “How can I get traction? How can I carve out my lane? What's my branding, essentially, to distinguish me from other people? I'm going to be the climate guy," as a kind of marketing choice in this field.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, that would not be an accurate depiction of the situation, and the best evidence of that is look, I have lived these battles for decades. This is at the core of who I am. And I have spent a substantial amount of my professional life fighting this battle on multiple occasions as a member of Congress, as person out of office. I started this when I was out of office actually, this effort, in the middle 1990s with a group in Seattle. I helped formed the U.S. Climate Alliance with Governor Jerry Brown and Governor Cuomo.

Which has been very efficiency by the way, because we now have 24 states are committed to the Paris Agreement. And we did that because we wanted to show the rest of the world that there was intelligent life in this country. I introduced some of the earliest climate legislation in the early 2000s in this regard. And anyone who knows me, that I can be a little bit insufferable on this subject in private life over a beer as well. The fact of the matter, this is very close to who I am as an individual, and as I've indicated to you, this is the thing that tipped me over to run for president.

I mean, I literally looked at my grandkids and I realized they're going to have very degraded lives unless something changes. The world depends on United States leadership. The United States will not be able to lead unless it has presidential leadership, and we will not have that president leadership I am convinced unless we elect a person who understands this has to be the top priority of the United States. And I fundamentally believe this, and I think this distinguishes me from the rest of the candidates. Because if this is not job one it will not get done.

I saw this movie in 2009 where we decided to do something other than climate change. There's only enough oxygen in this congressional system to do something gigantic like this, and I believe it has to be this first.

Image: Democratic debate night one
From left, Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, and John Delaney pose for a photo on stage before the start of a Democratic primary debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, on June 26, 2019, in Miami.Brynn Anderson / AP

CHRIS HAYES: Okay. This gets to a related set of issues. There's lots of fires to put out. I mean, I do an hour of news every night. My feeling about the priorities before human civilization right now align with yours, and I think align with other people, which is that the climate is a civilizational struggle, a once in human life on the planet struggle, World War II level kind of thing. But do I cover it like that? I'm not sure. I mean, because there's a lot of other news, and when I see child separation and the structural impediments that they're trying to put a census question, and the growth of inequality and the level of corruption.

It just it is hard ... there's a lot of stuff to talk about. And I think just particularly how do you think about that, and particularly how do you think about that with the Democratic party coalition that is diverse, that is heterogeneous, that has people who have family members facing deportation, incarceration, extreme economic misery, healthcare holes? There's a lot of people with a lot of issues who are like, "Yeah, the climate's important, but I got some other stuff I got to deal with."

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, here's some really good news for you. What I have found if you have strong, resilient, smart executive leadership you can address all of those things while you're addressing the climate change crisis, as we have in the state of Washington-

CHRIS HAYES: But wait a second, I just want to point that's a little bit in tension with what you said, right? Because what you just two minutes ago, which I agree with is you get one window in Congress for one big thing, right?


CHRIS HAYES: So if that big thing is climate, it's not comprehensive immigration reform. There is a time for choosing that's going to happen, and you and I both know that like let's say you get a unified government, you get one big domestic bill. My understanding from you, and I would agree with you, and it's what I would do if I were elected president, is you move on climate. But that means those 11 million who are undocumented aren't getting legalized.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: So let me push back on your assumption. We have experience on this in Washington State. We have been very vigorous on clean energy as we've talked about. We've had tremendous advances in clean energy. Simultaneously, we have been the first governor to stand up against the Muslim ban. We have now beat Donald Trump 22 times in court, and one of which is the child separation issue. We have passed the very first public option on health care in the United States. We have passed the most robust comprehensive and rich program for free college tuition for low-income people. We have passed the best gender pay equity bill in the United States.

We have passed the first net neutrality statute in the United States which I have signed. I have tackled the racial disparity issue that is so prevalent in our society by issuing pardons and offering pardons to thousands of people in the drug wars. We've now re-instituted affirmative action. We've got rid of the death penalty. What I'm depicting to you is in a prioritization array, you can do many of these things as well, but I stick by my statement that ultimately you've got to start with the biggest problem, and this is the biggest problem.

CHRIS HAYES: If you were to get a table together of various institutional players and stakeholders that represent various different constituencies throughout what is broadly the center left or sort of anti-Trump coalition, my sense, my read on this as a reporter is that there's not consensus that climate is the number one issue, although it's moving in that direction.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I think it's as a rapidly changing dynamic, including in the Democratic Party. If you look at the polling results in the Democratic Party, it also has changed dramatically in the double digits in the last year or two. So it is now listed as the number one priority in Iowa and Nevada and New Hampshire, and sometimes tied with health care in this regard. This is a rapidly changing issue, and again, Democrats are now seeing this affecting their families. I mean, I think of a woman named Regina Haddock. I met her, she ran a nonprofit in Davenport, Iowa called Dress for Success. And they help women who are victims of domestic violence and women who needed a little hand up in life. And they have been in operation for 10 years. They serve about 1,500 women a year, and then here comes a flood. Unprecedented flooding, never seen floods like this before. Hamburg, Iowa found in 1858, never flooded since 1858 now under eight, nine feet of water.

So here comes the flood, washes away her nonprofit, she's out of luck, had no insurance, lost her lease, and now there's 1,500 women out of luck. This is a quote, “progressive liberal” issue that we Democrats care about. We have deep compassion in my party, and this is now cutting the heart out of what we hold dear, which is our families. And so this is becoming a top drawer issue in the Democratic Party and I believe it's sort of like Wayne Gretzky said, you always want to skate to where the puck's going to be. It's going to be even more intense in the next two years because these tragedies are going to get more frequent and more intense. The scientific community is pulling their hair out right now, but what they're seeing, they're seeing the permafrost melt in the Arctic, which holds gigatons of methane, and methane is a runaway potential greenhouse gas. They're seeing on multiples-

Water drips off an iceberg in the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord in southwestern Greenland in 2017. Studies show the Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet.David Goldman / AP file

CHRIS HAYES: Methane worse than carbon in terms of what it does.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Multiple at 20, 15, 30 times worth per molecule. You're seeing temperatures in Europe, you're seeing temperatures in India that in a sense make places almost uninhabitable. So I think you're seeing a very rapid change in the political context, but it's like anything, you need a spark. And I've lived through presidential leadership and seeing John F. Kennedy. I saw that with my own eyes. We're going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon, and I believe presidential leadership is capable of igniting this country to do what we did, not just in the space race, but what we did in World War II, because that's what we have to do. The scale of mobilization that is necessary is similar to World War II. And for those who say we can't do this, baloney. For those who say we can't start building electric cars in 10 years, baloney.

In 1940, we built 70 jeeps. The entire industrial capacity built 70 jeeps in 1940. By 1945 we'd built 640,000 jeeps. That's what the U.S. economy is capable of doing once we set it on a demand curve to get that job done. And we have to do that. Who says that? Isaac Newton, the people who are the scientific community telling us this.

CHRIS HAYES: My favorite factoid about the jeep is that the reason the panels are square is because they requisitioned washing machine factories to make them.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: With square panels?

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. The machinery that they used to produce jeeps had been used to make washing machines. They had square panels so they had no curves, which is why the jeep boxed shaped.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, people, if you're interested in this, I just got done reading a book called Freedom's Forge. And it was about how the industrial might of the U.S. was remobilized for this separate purpose. And I believe it is a template for what we need to achieve right now. And I believe that we can, and when we do this, millions of people are going to get jobs. World War II was the greatest job creating opportunity in American history. And this is going to create millions of jobs and not just physicists, it's carpenters and laborers.

Today, I mentioned that I went to a training program for building superintendents. And the retrofitting that we will need to do in our buildings will be an infrastructure program rivaling the interstate freeway system. Because all of these buildings, they were not built for energy efficiency over the last 200 years. We need to retrofit them. This is an enormous construction project for the building trades. So one of the things I think sometimes people think clean energy, they just think just solar panels. It's not just solar panels, it's carpenters, laborers. IBEW has plumbers that are going to do this work.

CHRIS HAYES: So I want to just come back to this climate debate question because it's something you've been pushing for, a climate center debate. Yes. The DNC has said, “Look, we gave the rules. We're not doing special topic debates.” I think if I were them, I would probably say the same thing because if I were managing the coalition then I would have to turn around and say like, “Should we have a racial justice debate? Probably. Should we have a labor debate? Probably.” I think that's the argument basically that if you open this door, then a whole bunch of other people are going to say, “Look, this is a pressing issue. We should have a devoted debate on it.” What do you say to that?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Two things. Number one, this is the issue that threatens life on the planet Earth. It is difficult to say that this is not distinguished from other issues. Our survival literally depends on this issue.

CHRIS HAYES: I would say a clear nonproliferation might be in the same category.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Possibly. So there is a difference between this issue and others, number one. Number two, if you're not going to hold a separate debate, at least allow the candidates to go hold their own debate and essentially the party has blacklisted candidates who will go have their own debate on this subject. And that's just nuts to have some kind of black lists who to say, Democrats can't go out and debate something that presents an existential crisis. The third thing I would say is, “Look, it may not be bad to have multiple debates on separate subjects. It's more productive.”

CHRIS HAYES: I think that's the smarter rhetorical move. Because you think, well, wait, maybe an immigration debate would be good. I mean, I feel like you could learn a lot from an immigration debate.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Listen, here's the problem. The party right now is going to have 12 debates. Each subject is going to have 60 to 120 seconds divided. You're going to get bumper sticker answers from all the candidates, and you're never going to be able to drill down and really understand where the candidates are. So it might be a better way to do it, but all I'm saying is we ought to have a debate on this subject. It is unique. It is now also, I think important to the party that look, there's only one party that has the possibility of saving humanity or it's the Democratic Party, and it would be a good thing to brand our party and the party cares about this.

CHRIS HAYES: It's so sad that that is like a not hyperbolic statement.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I wish it was otherwise.

CHRIS HAYES: It sounds ridiculous. It sounds so inflated to say, well there's two parties and there's only one party that could save humanity. But it's like, sadly, that's kind of where we're at right now.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: There is a sad scientific reality that this is required, and there's a sad political reality that there's only one party offering solution or at least the politicians are not. The people are. The people understand this.

CHRIS HAYES: So let's say, okay, Jay Inslee wins the nomination. He becomes elected president United States with a crazy New Deal, 1932 or 1964-style landslides. Effectively like super majorities in both houses.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: You heard it first right here on the Chris Hayes show.

CHRIS HAYES: I mean, let's imagine that's the case. Basically, give me the program like in a short, a relatively concise, like you've put out two big documents on climate plans, if I'm not mistaken.


CHRIS HAYES: But give me the citizen friendly version of the Jay Inslee presidential climate plan.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: We are going to mobilize the incredible talents and resources of the United States to build a clean energy economy. We are going to put 8 million people to work while we do that, and good union paid jobs. We're going to do this by using known… Very high confidence things that we know actually work to accomplish that. Some of that would involve executive action to use the existing statutory authority of the executive branch, to adopt regulations that will require companies to give us cleaner energy. Some would involve further legislation that would also involve requiring industries to give us clean energy.

Some of that would involve some pricing mechanism, particularly with industrial polluters that are harder to deal with a regulatory standpoint. Some of that would involve research and development to help use our research labs to continue the research that we need to do. Some of that involve infrastructure investments where we have to rebuild our housing and commercial housing stock. Some of that would involve infrastructure in our transportation system.

We have to rebuild the economy that is not based on fossil fuels. In the next 50 years, unless we wean ourselves off of gasoline, diesel and coal, and natural gas, the Earth will become virtually uninhabitable. And that's just a scientific reality. So we need to have exercise the powers of imagination of the most creative, and innovative, inventive people in human history, and that's the American people. And I'm very confident we can do this because we've done this in multiple occasions. That's as much as I can boil it down.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. So there's a few different channels. There's legislation. There is a price on the sort of industrial sector. There's research and development. There's sort of green jobs programs, and retrofitting, and infrastructure. There are caps, right? I mean there's going to be-

GOV. JAY INSLEE: There's legitimate caps that we would put in place.

CHRIS HAYES: Like requirements.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That's exactly it.

CHRIS HAYES: We can't pollute above this level. A kind of forcing mechanism of a very strong clear market signal to everyone distributed out through the system who is making everything from cars to industrial machinery that this is the way it's going to be.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Right. We know these things work. When we told as a people, we told the auto industry to give us cars with catalytic converters. They squawked, but they did it, and as a result we have clean air. We have spectacularly safe cars now as a result of federal mandates.

CHRIS HAYES: Even emission standards. I have three kids and we have a hybrid Toyota Highlander, and we spilled milk in the back seat.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: That is terrible.

CHRIS HAYES: It is the worst.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: I'm sorry, you're going to kill the car. I'm sorry. Give it up.

CHRIS HAYES: This is like my own version of getting off carbon is the challenge in my household is getting the smell of sour milk out of a car.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: You're done.

CHRIS HAYES: I've been told this. By the way, I have… That's tooting my own horn. I think-

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Do not buy a used car from this man. I will tell you.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, exactly. I'm screwing up my chances. I think I've successfully purged the smell from the car after multiple rounds of things like coffee. It's insane. Point being, at one point I was like, well, maybe it's time that… We've got three kids, they're going to get bigger. It's time to move up to a minivan, but I don't want to buy a car that's a huge gas guzzler. And I was pleasantly surprised to see what the fuel efficiency is on newly produced mini-vans because of the fuel efficiency standards have pretty good fuel efficiency compared to a compact car five years ago.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: So the regulatory changes, all of the things you just mentioned were ordered by Uncle Sam and the industry responded. And we are capable of doing this. Look, we have 50,000 electric cars on the road today in Washington State in part because of our incentive program. In part, we build electrical charging stations. We need now to basically tell the auto industry to give us cleaner cars as we have done on multiple occasions. This time they have to be fossil free. And I'm proposing that we tell the industry to start giving us clean cars 10 years from now.

That is an entirely achievable goal. We've got at least 40 new electric car models coming online today. Even without a mandate, the battery technology is moving very, very rapidly in this regard. These are achievable results, but we need a signal to the industry to produce and that is the job of Uncle Sam.

CHRIS HAYES: All right. So here's the final question. I don't know if you followed this, but there is a coal mine in Wyoming. A lot of coal production moved from the East Coast to Wyoming in the last 10, 15 years. Coal has become largely uneconomic. It's really mostly a market story about why it's dying more than a regulatory story, but there's a big… I think one or two coal mines in Wyoming that have shuttered now. State Republicans tried some kind of crazy stuff to save it and essentially create these state subsidies for an uneconomic coal plant, which is just totally nuts, but it's shuttering now and there's about 200 coal miners that are going to lose their jobs.

That to me is like where the rubber hits the road for them for your message, for Democrats, message for everyone is there are so many people who feel like, I'm going to be left out of this transition. I'm already being left out of it, and you can say all you want to me, blue state governor, liberal congressman, whatever. I just don't believe you that like you have my interests at heart, me, Wyoming, coal miner. What do you say to that person?

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Well, look, these coal families are some of the most dedicated hardworking families in American history. They built the industrial might of the United States. They help us win two wars. These are the families that deserve respect and compassion, and consideration, and also the truth, and they are not getting the truth from the president of United States right now. He is lying to them repeatedly. He's telling them he's going to bring back coal, and that is simply not going to happen because coal-

CHRIS HAYES: It hasn't happened.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Because coal is not competitive with other sources of energy. Two thirds of the plants have shut down simply because it is no longer cost competitive. And another thing they deserve the truth on is we need now to stand up to their bosses who want to welch on their pension and healthcare requirements. And I can tell you a guy who loves bankruptcy, which is Donald Trump, who is standing with their bosses, who is going to help them not meet their pension and retirement and health obligations to these miners, number one.

Number two, we have to help these communities through transition. Now, this is not just something I say rhetorically because we are actually doing it in my state. We are closing the last coal fire electrical plant in my state. It's in a little town called Centralia, Washington. We didn't just shut that thing off, we created a package of $55 million a year to help that community go through that transition with not just training and education for the miners, but also job creation because they need jobs, right?

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. I mean, don't tell me to go learn how to code at my-

GOV. JAY INSLEE: This is the way we want to help these communities actually build businesses that can support jobs. Now, a lot of these coal miners have skill sets that are, transferable to clean energy because guess who's going to be rebuilding and retrofitting, and doing the machinery work and the electrical work? These people are very talented.

CHRIS HAYES: It's all machine operations anyway.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: It's machine operation.

CHRIS HAYES: All coal mining is done through machine anyways. If you're someone who spent years… No one is in there with explosives and pickaxes anymore. These are people who handles very sophisticated, very dangerous machinery.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: They're highly skilled people. Their skills are transferrable to the new economy in new wind turbine technicians. They might need a little new training, but yes, these jobs can be available. But listen, this is not to downplay the concern during any transition. Look, when you have to make a transition in life, it is not comfortable. I don’t want to downplay the discomfort that these communities have going through this transition, but I believe that's the right thing for the federal government to embrace them and help them through this transition that we know is inevitable and it's happening. The jobs today are growing twice as fast in clean energy than the whole rest of the U.S. economy in several fold in the fossil fuel based system.

So if we want to talk to our children… I know every father and mother I know want to tell their kids, I want you to go into a career that's growing not one that's going to not exist 10 years from now. So I think it's the right message.

CHRIS HAYES: All right. Jay Inslee is the governor of Washington State, former member of Congress and currently running for president of the United States. Thanks so much for making time.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Yes, and I know it will not violate your principles when I tell you that if people go to and send a dollar, they can make sure that I'll be on the debate stage and climate change will be in the debate come hell or high water.

CHRIS HAYES: All right.

GOV. JAY INSLEE: Debates three and four.

CHRIS HAYES: All right, Brendan McDonald make sure to edit that out. Thanks a lot.

Once again my great thanks to Governor Jay Inslee who… Did we… I don't know. I'm now recording the outro to this, not knowing if we edited the last part where he plugged his website. But you could get a link to his website on our website as well. He is the governor of Washington. He is a 2020 presidential candidate. He's also the author — he mentioned this. He's author of a book called "Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy," which is about the climate and clean energy, which he wrote 12 years ago.

We'd love to hear your feedback. As always, you can email You could tweet us with the #WITHpod. Like I said at the top of the show, we ask for your feedback on the intros. We got a ton of it. It was overwhelmingly pro-intro. I live to serve. You like the takes? I serve up the takes. So we value your feedback. We absolutely love to hear from you.

Related links:

"Apollo’s Fire" by Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks

"Freedom’s Forge" by Arthur Herman

The Uninhabitable Earth with David Wallace-Wells (March 5)

The Wicked Problem of Climate Change with Andrew Revkin (Aug 14, 2018)

"Why Is This Happening" is presented by MSNBC and NBC News. Produced by the "All In" team and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here by going to