‘It’s going to get worse’: Scientists talk to Western Australia’s governor about climate warming

Gov. Jay Inslee hosted a meeting Friday with three scientists and an environmental lobbyist to discuss climate change before 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 together some people who understand this,” Inslee said. “We are not alone in Washington in recognizing this. The UN director described this as a ‘code red for humanity.’”

The panel consisted of Leah Misick, policy director at Climate Solutions, a clean energy nonprofit; Leah Stokes, professor of environmental policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Lisa Gromlich, professor of ecology and forest sciences at the University of Washington; and Krishna Achuta Rao, professor of atmospheric sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

“In 2023, we are likely to experience the warmest year in the history of measured temperatures,” Achuta Rao said. “We have already surpassed the warmest summer ever recorded. We have known since the mid-1990s that fossil fuels and carbon dioxide are warming the planet.

When Inslee spoke about deaths caused by climate change around the world, Achuta Rao added that the impacts have changed daily activities in many parts of the world.

“People can’t go out for walks or exercise during the day in most tropical areas, and it’s only going to get worse,” Achuta Rao said. “By setting loss of life as the standard for a disaster, we are truly depriving ourselves of the nuances of everyday life.”

Gromlich spoke of a misconception among Pacific Northwest residents that the region is not at risk from climate change compared to other parts of the world.

“What we’re finding is that climate change absolutely impacts us here in Washington state,” Gromlich said. “…Climate change is making extreme heat worse.”

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

“It was the worst weather-related disaster in our state’s history,” Gromlich said. “We as a community need to plant trees, create shade structures, conduct temperature checks for our most vulnerable residents and open up cooling spaces.”

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

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