'It's only going to get worse': Scientists speak to Gov. Inslee about warming climate


Gov. Jay Inslee hosted a meeting Friday with three scientists and one environment lobbyist to discuss climate change ahead of his trip to New York City to meet with the United Nations.

At the beginning of the virtual meeting, the governor spoke about the increasing frequency of climate disasters around the world, including the Spokane County fires in August.

"I wanted to bring some people together who are understanding of this," Inslee said. "We're not alone in Washington recognizing this. The U.N. director described this as a 'code red for humanity.' "

The panel consisted of Leah Missik, policy manager at Climate Solutions, a clean energy nonprofit; Leah Stokes, environmental politics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Lisa Graumlich, environment and forest science professor at the University of Washington; and Krishna AchutaRao, atmospheric science professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

"In 2023, we are likely to face the warmest year in measured temperature history," AchutaRao said. "We've already crossed the warmest summer ever recorded. We've known since the mid-90s that fossil fuels, CO2 has been warming the planet."

When Inslee brought up climate change-caused deaths around the globe, AchutaRao added that the impacts have changed day-to-day activities in many parts of the world.

"People aren't able to go out for walks or play sports during the daytime in much of the tropics, and this is only going to get worse," AchutaRao said. "By setting loss of life as the standard for a disaster, we are really depriving ourselves of the nuances of everyday living."

Graumlich spoke about a false notion among residents of the Pacific Northwest that the region is not threatened by climate change compared to other parts of the world.

"What we are discovering is climate change is absolutely affecting us here in Washington state," Graumlich said. "... Climate change is making extreme heat worse."

The University of Washington professor pointed out the spike in daily deaths in the state due to heat-related causes during the 2021 heat dome. In one week, 441 people died.

"It was the worst weather-related disaster in our state history," Graumlich said. "We as a community need to be planting trees, making shade structures, doing heat checks for our most vulnerable populations and opening up cooling spaces."

Next week, Inslee will travel to New York City, where he will give a keynote address to the United Nations General Assembly at its Climate Week convention. Inslee will spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday attending meetings in the city with U.N. climate groups, according to an itinerary sent out by his office.