THE LIGHTBULB

A half dozen Democrats running for president in 2020 released sweeping climate change proposals in recent days that seek ways to totally eliminate carbon emissions from the economy in the next two to three decades.

But these Democrats' goals are not as ambitious as the 2030 deadline for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions that many people see as part of the Green New Deal proposal, which four of those candidates sponsored in the Senate. The GOP-led Senate rejected that proposal, but the nonbinding climate plan is still seen as a benchmark for climate activism by the party's progressive wing.

The 2020 proposals come ahead of a seven-hour CNN climate forum on Wednesday. Climate activists have urged an official Democratic debate be centered solely on climate change, but that has not been sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. The plans by the White House aspirants — and their scope — signal the rising importance of climate change as a campaign issue in the 2020 race.

On Wednesday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) released a climate change plan calling for creating a “clean, carbon-neutral” economy by 2045. As The Post's Chelsea Janes reports, to get there Harris is calling for $10 trillion of public and private spending over the next 10 years in the energy, transportation and other sectors, 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), similarly, wants the country to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 with $3 trillion in investments over the next 10 years. Klobuchar set a goal of net-zero emissions by the mid-century mark, 2050, with $1 trillion in investments.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), meanwhile, embraced Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate plan, calling for a series of intermediate goals, such as zero emissions for all new light-duty passenger vehicles and buses by 2030 and zero emission for electricity generation by 2035. Inslee, who cast himself as the climate change candidate, last month dropped out of the 2020 race.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the plans of the four senators seeking the White House and the Green New Deal is the seemingly different dates they propose for decarbonizing the U.S. economy. The contrast shows how the 2020 climate debate has evolved from one setting high and perhaps unrealsic ambitions to one of articulating actual policy. 

According to some people's reading of the document, the nonbinding Green New Deal resolution calls for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

But others read the document differently, saying the Green New Deal instead just calls for a surge of clean energy investment between now and 2030, as the four senators are proposing. The date for getting to net-zero emissions could be sometime later.

Here's what the Green New Deal text, released in February, actually says: It is the “duty” of the federal government “to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition.” That goal, it continues, “should be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization.”

If interpreted as setting a 2030 goal for decarbonization, the Green New Deal “put out a very ambitious target. It’s laudable,” said Leah Stokes, a political scientist at the University of California at Santa Barbara who specializes in climate issues. 

“But when it comes to meeting it,” she added, “it’s very hard.”

Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, which praised the four senators’ plans, said she does not see a “discrepancy” between the Green New Deal and the new plans.

“Everyone agrees, we need to get here as fast as we can,” she added. “It's clear that all these candidates agree that we need to transform the economy.”

Yet even hitting some of the candidates’ intermediate goals — such as Harris’s call for 100 percent carbon-neutral electricity by 2030 — would be monumentally difficult, given that nearly two-thirds of electricity generation currently comes from burning natural gas and coal. 

Whatever the deadline, the rush to cut the nation's climate-warming emissions has been driven by the conclusions of climate scientists — specifically, the release in October of a U.N. report that says the world needs to take “unprecedented” action over the next decade to cut emissions and forestall warming 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels.

Citing that report, some U.S. climate activists — including those with the group Sunrise Movement, which brought the idea of the Green New Deal to the fore with its protests — argue that since the United States had been a top carbon dioxide emitter for decades, the nation has an obligation to now lead in cutting emissions.

“The truth is, we don't know exactly what is possible, but it is by putting out an ambitious goal and doing everything in our power to achieve it that we will push what’s possible,” said Stephen O'Hanlon, the Sunrise Movement's communications director. “When JFK said we would be on the moon by the end of the decade, many smart people said that was unimaginable, but we came together and accomplished it.”

THERMOMETER

DORIAN WATCH

The latest: Now a strong Category 2 hurricane, Dorian is moving away from Florida, and has shifted far enough from the coast to spare the state the worst of its impact as it now moves toward coastal Georgia and the Carolinas, The Post’s Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow report.

The storm is set to approach the coastline of the Carolinas between late Wednesday and Thursday and could make landfall, days after it devastated the northwestern Bahamas. “Around Charleston, S.C., for example, wind gusts could hit 80 mph, and water levels could rank among the top five levels ever recorded due to combination of ocean surge and 6 to 10 inches of rain. Even higher wind gusts could lash the North Carolina Outer Banks, leading to power outages and damage,” they report. “Even the Virginia Tidewater and southern Delmarva could endure tropical storm conditions by Friday, after which the storm will finally race out to sea.”

A recurring nightmare in the Southeast: Some residents in Florida and other southeeastern states in are expressing déjà vu and fear as Dorian looms, including some who had to evacuate or had their homes damaged after recent hurricanes, The Post’s Tim Craig and Stephanie Hunt report.

“Dorian is threatening the region after three consecutive years of punishing East Coast hurricanes, including Hurricane Florence last year and Hurricane Matthew in 2016,” they write. “Some residents have yet to recover from those storms, a situation that has yielded more anxiety and heightened the debate over rising sea levels.” In Charleston, S.C., just as in Jacksonville, Fla., “officials are bracing for another flood before they have finished cleaning up from the last one. The city is surrounded by water on three sides, and in recent years it has battled flooding from heavy rain as well as rising tides.”

Here’s one way climate change has impacted Dorian: The hurricane’s eyewall blasted Grand Bahama Island for 40 hours – in what may have been the “the longest duration siege of violent, destructive weather ever observed,” The Post’s Matthew Cappucci reports. “Most hurricanes of Dorian’s strength move at a forward speed of about 10 to 15 mph. Dorian crawled along at 1.3 mph — less than half of a typical human walking pace. At times, the hurricane was stationary.”

That crawling pace may be a result of a warming globe, the New York Times reports: “Recent research suggests that climate change has made stalled Atlantic storms more common since the mid-20th century, and that they are more dangerous because they stay in one place for a longer period of time, potentially concentrating their destruction.”

On Twitter, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pointed to the devastating storm as a direct link to the impacts of climate change: 

National
After devastating the Bahamas, a weakened storm moves toward the Southeast United States.
John Muyskens, Tim Meko and Kate Rabinowitz
POWER PLAYS

— The door revolves: Joe Balash, who oversaw oil and gas drilling on federal lands at the Interior Department before resigning last week, will join a foreign oil company with expanding operations in Alaska, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson report this morning. Balash, who was the department’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management for nearly two years, wouldn’t specify his new gig at the firm Oil Search, based in Papua New Guinea, but insisted he would follow the Trump ethics pledge that prohibits appointees from lobbying their former agencies for five years.

“The company is drilling on state lands that lie nearby — but not inside — two federal reserves where the Trump administration is pushing to increase oil and gas development: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska,” Eilperin and Mufson report. “During his time at Interior, Balash oversaw the department’s work to hold lease sales on the coastal plain of the 19.3 million-acre refuge and to expand drilling on the 22.8 million acre reserve to the west of the refuge. Both sites are home to large numbers of migratory birds as well as caribou, polar bears and other wildlife.”

— Manchin to stay in Senate: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D) announced he will stay in the Senate rather than run for governor in West Virginia. Considered the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, Manchin said he believes he can be more effective in the Senate, The Post’s John Wagner and Seung Min Kim write.

He cited his post as the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and vowed to push for energy technology measures “that invest in all-of-the-above energy that will keep our country as the world economic leader,” he wrote in the statement. “From advanced nuclear to renewables to carbon capture utilization and storage, we are going to build an energy base that protects jobs, keeps prices low, and recognizes the reality of climate change. Not only that, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that those advanced technologies are manufactured and deployed in West Virginia.”

— As temperatures rise, the poor feel the heat: A new investigation by NPR and the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism examined how low-income neighborhoods tend to be hotter than wealthier neighborhoods in dozens of major cities across the country. An analysis of 97 of the cities with the highest population found that in more than three-fourths, hotter locations are more likely to be poorer. “Those exposed to that extra heat are often a city's most vulnerable: the poorest and, our data show, disproportionately people of color,” NPR reports. “And living day after day in an environment that's literally hotter isn't just uncomfortable, it can have dire and sometimes deadly health consequences — a fact we found reflected in Baltimore's soaring rates of emergency calls when the heat index spiked to dangerous levels.”

— New York Times drops oil conference sponsorship: The newspaper announced that it has ended the sponsorship of the annual Oil and Money conference, citing its growing coverage of climate change. “While our partners in Oil & Money, Energy Intelligence, have always maintained high standards of independence and impartiality, the subject gives us cause for concern as we continue to invest even more in the coverage of these consequential environmental issues,” NYT spokesman Eileen Murphy said in a statement. The change followed pressure from activists and protests by groups including Extinction Rebellion, The Guardian reports.

DAYBOOK

Today

  • FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee speaks at a Resources for the Future event.

Coming Up

  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) gives a keynote address at the Houston Oil Forum, which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • The United States Energy Association holds a briefing on carbon utilization on Thursday.
  • The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the reorganization and relocation of the Bureau of Land Management Headquarters on Sept. 10.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— This woman opened her home to 97 rescue dogs in the Bahamas during Hurricane Dorian: “79 of them are inside my master bedroom,” she posted on Facebook on Sunday. "It has been insane since last night."