Then there’s the media side. The two rounds of debates so far have been meh to pretty good in terms of climate questions. And the questions have come up late in the format both times around. But overall, the political press is finally moving climate out of the environmentalist box and into the serious political one. We’re even getting two nationally televised climate crises town halls next month. That is huge.


It means climate change conversations are going on in millions of Americans’ living rooms, breaking what Yale researchers have called a “spiral of climate silence” where people don’t hear about climate change so they assume others don’t care, which leads to even fewer people talking about the most pressing issue of our time. Ending climate silence is one of the keys to moving climate change closer to the center of our discussions about politics and the future society we want. It’s hard to imagine that media switch flipping without a candidate running on a climate platform forcing them to go there.

Now, of course, Inslee isn’t the only reason we’re talking about the climate crisis this primary season. The upstart Sunrise Movement, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and years of activists pushing for the climate to become a top tier issue all played a role. So, too, has the catastrophic surge of deadly wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves, and floods that have struck the U.S. this year, all manifestations of climate change. Ditto for all the harrowing reports we’ve seen in the past year alone. Shit got real.


Now that Inslee has exited the race, it could take some of the air out of the climate change discussions. His campaign told Earther he would become more “actively involved with other candidates” to help keep climate change front and center. And the activists, chaotic weather, and gnarly reports aren’t going away either. So my guess is, it’s unlikely that the climate crisis will fade back to an inaudible hum.

Inslee’s campaign was in some ways ahead of its time, but it was also the one we needed as we careen toward the climate precipice. He brought the climate goods to a new forum, elevated how we talk about the problems and the politics of what’s possible. He may not be the next president, but he damn well shaped the race. And if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020, Inslee’s influence during the brief, glorious hot girl summer of 2019 could end up reverberating for generations to come.