Climate change usually doesn't play at the polls. Voters invariably rank more immediate and personal concerns, such as paying their own medical expenses or tax bills, as higher priorities than addressing the steady rise in temperatures globally.
Nevertheless, some Democratic candidates chose to talk about climate change on the 2018 campaign trail anyway, seeking to counter President Trump's dismissal of the climate science saying human activity is dangerously warming the planet.
That handful of House hopefuls got some ammunition this October: A report from the leading climate scientists that the world is close to failure in holding man-made global warming to moderate levels.
On Oct. 7, only 30 days before Election Day, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported the world's nations need to undertake “unprecedented” action to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade enough to keep the planet from warming 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, past preindustrial levels.
The timing could not have been better for the smattering of Democratic nominees who want to contrast their environmental agenda with the GOP's. They pointed to the U.N.'s findings as reason the United States needs to rein in greenhouse gas emission — and, even more immediately, why the nation needs to elect them to office.
“What it said in a nutshell — I’ll save you some time — we’ve got about 15 years to take action," Mike Levin, a Democratic House candidate, told voters in suburban Southern California, according to the Washington Examiner.
Other Democrats referred to that tight time frame as well. Elaine Luria, the Democratic challenger in Virginia's 2nd District on the commonwealth's coast, said the report representing the work of nearly 100 scientists is “a wake-up call for all of us to take climate change seriously." Sean Casten, running for Congress in suburban Chicago, called it a “wake-up call," too.
“We have 10 years to get climate under control," he told the Daily Herald in Illinois.
And Democrat David Brill, the long-shot challenger to conservative firebrand Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), used the 700-page report as a cudgel against his opponent “who refuses to acknowledge it as an issue."
The U.N. report gave Democrats a hook they lacked in past elections to bring up the climate issue. The IPCC, which only periodically releases such reports, wrote this latest one because it was requested as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Still, environmental issues in general perennially rank low among voters' concerns. According to a Gallup survey last month, a meager 3 percent of American adults ranked the environment as the most important problem facing the country today.
In the 2018 election, which ends today, politicians vying for votes have more or less prioritized what's gaining traction with voters: Many Democratic candidates have talked up health-care affordability and access while Republicans sought to emphasize the economy.
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— It's Election Day: Here's some of The Post's coverage of how energy and environmental issues are playing into the race.
- Arizona: The hottest fight in American politics? Arizona’s smackdown over solar power.
- California: Water sustains everything in California farm country. It may also save this House Republican.
- Colorado: Intense fight over Colorado oil and gas setbacks could end with national precedent
- Florida: Florida’s Senate race was Rick Scott’s to lose, but he is haunted by his environmental record
- Nevada: Kavanaugh's court decision on Yucca Mountain could be campaign issue in Nevada Senate race
- Washington: Washington could be the first state to charge for carbon emissions that cause climate change
— Emails suggest Zinke contradicted ethics pledge: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke continued to be involved in discussions related to his family foundation’s property in the summer of 2017 even though he had vowed to recuse himself from doing so, according to documents obtained by The Post’s Juliet Eilperin.
What the documents show: Zinke authorized the city planner for Whitefish, Mont. to access the property and “explained that he was engaged in negotiations with a real estate developer over building a parking lot on his foundation’s land,” Eilperin reports.
Why that matters: "[U]nder an ethics pledge he signed Jan. 10, 2017, Zinke vowed to step down from his position as president of the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation after winning confirmation and refrain from participating in any matters concerning the group for one year.” The Interior Department's Office of Inspector General and the Justice Department are probing Zinke’s involvement in a land development deal backed by David J. Lesar, chairman of the oil services firm Halliburton.
What Trump is saying: Before boarding Air Force One to leave for campaign events, Trump praised his interior secretary but acknowledged he was scrutinizing his conduct. “I’m going to look at any reports. I’ll take a look. Certainly, I would not be happy with that at all. But I will take a look," Trump said. "But he has done a very good job as secretary.”
— EPA deals with a different type of toxicity: EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson told employees in a memo that the agency has “no tolerance for racism” after several recent racist messages were written around agency facilities. “The writings make derogatory references to ‘the negro man’ and include the n-word,” Government Executive reports. Jackson called on employees to help “track down those responsible and hold them accountable, saying anyone with information should report it to their supervisor,” per the report.
— The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on two environmental cases.
- One concerns hunting in Alaska: The court heard arguments in the case of a moose hunter who argues the National Park Service cannot block him from using his hovercraft in remote areas of Alaska. The Associated Press reports the justices “sounded skeptical” of the federal government’s authority. The state and hunter John Sturgeon say the agency can’t enforce a national ban “on a river in Alaska for which the state claims ownership, even though it runs through a national conservation area,” per the AP.
- The other is about mining in Virginia: Justices had numerous questions about how they would discern the intent behind Virginia lawmakers’ decision to ban uranium mining there decades ago, The Post’s Robert Barnes reports. And the questions came from justices across the ideological spectrum. The lawyer for Virginia Uranium Inc. "said the state couldn’t use a ban on mining, which is within its jurisdiction, as a ruse for concerns about production of uranium and storage of radioactive waste, which are the province of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” Barnes writes. “But Cooper was bombarded from all sides with questions on how a court would determine that.”
— The critically endangered American red wolf might have been saved from extinction Monday: A federal judge in North Carolina scolded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its management of the endangered red wolf population, saying that the agency “sworn to uphold a congressional mandate to preserve the animals violated it over and over, and even gave private landowners the right to shoot them,” The Post’s Darryl Fears reports. Chief Judge Terrence W. Boyle came down on the side of conservation groups that sued Fish and Wildlife and ruled “that a temporary injunction issued against Fish and Wildlife’s shoot-to-kill authorization in 2016 is now permanent. The agency must prove that a wolf is a threat to humans or livestock before it can make a decision to take its life.”
— The ozone layer is healing: The United Nations says the Earth’s ozone layer is healing from previous damage that result from years of aerosol spray and coolant use, the Associated Press reports. A slow reversal began after scientists warned about the consequences of ozone-depleting chemicals in the 1980s. “As a result, the upper ozone layer above the Northern Hemisphere should be completely repaired in the 2030s and the gaping Antarctic ozone hole should disappear in the 2060s."
— Rare whale sighting in Arctic waters: Scientists are warning that an unusual sighting of sperm whales in the Canadian Arctic may be yet another signal of a rapidly evolving ecosystem resulting from warming Arctic waters, The Guardian reports. It’s just the second known sighting of sperm whales in the area near Pond Inlet, per the report. “While they don’t represent a threat to the ecosystem, there are worries sperm whale could become trapped as winter approaches.”
— U.S. imposes second round of sanctions on Iran: Monday saw the start of a new round of sanctions from the United States against Iran, these one targeting Iranian oil, banks and shipping companies, The Post’s Erin Cunningham and Carol Morello report.
Of course there are carve-outs: The administration issued waivers to the governments of China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey from the sanctions on Iranian oil. The eight governments will be authorized to continue “temporary” imports of Iranian oil, the Wall Street Journal reports.
What the move means politically: The president's decision "has ushered in what is likely to be a protracted period of heated rhetoric and standoff, as the Trump administration threatened more pressure and Tehran warned that it can ramp up its nuclear program again,” Cunningham and Morello write.
What the move means economically: The U.S. sanctions have already cost Iran billions since May, Reuters reports. And the WSJ adds: “Iran’s international sales have fallen by a third in the lead-up to the second round of economywide sanctions, but top Trump administration officials say they are seeking to cut Tehran’s exports to zero in the coming months, threatening to punish anyone caught violating its crude embargo.”
— Billions in bonds addressing climate concerns are on the ballot: State and local governments nationwide are calling on voters to approve billions of dollars of debt to address environmental projects in cities from Florida to California, needed to combat the infrastructure-related consequences of a warming globe. In the city of Miami Beach on Tuesday, voters will decide whether the city can “pump more money into environmentally-friendly sidewalks, parks, and neighborhood improvements,” Bloomberg reports. “The $439 million bond proposal would use a fourth of the proceeds to address the effects of climate change... In California, which was hit hard by a years-long drought that began in 2011, voters will consider $8.9 billion of bonds for water projects. Austin, Texas, voters will also consider borrowing to improve water quality. A 100-year-old seawall in San Francisco could get a $425 million repair job to make sure it protects the city from rising sea levels and floods.”
- Voters go to the polls nationwide this Election Day.
- The Heritage Foundation holds an event on renewed sanctions and U.S. policy in Iran.
- The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on the conservative case for a carbon tax on Wednesday.
- The United States Energy Association holds an event on the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy Solid Oxide Fuel Program on Thursday.
- The National Regulatory Commission holds a webinar on the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station on Thursday.
— “Jump on the whale!”: A fisherman jumped on the back of a humpback whale to free it from a rope tangle, The Post’s Alex Horton reported.