with Paulina Firozi

THE LIGHTBULB

Jay Inslee had a great night during CNN's climate forum. Even though he wasn't there.

During the network's seven whole hours of discussion of climate change Wednesday evening, at least four Democratic candidates for president glowingly name-checked the Washington governor, who last month dropped out of the race.

Inslee had been polling so low before stopping his campaign that he stood little chance of qualifying for the forum. But the ideas the self-branded climate candidate brought to the race, as well as the enthusiasm with which he addressed the issue, have been adopted by a number of his former 2020 rivals.

Julián Castro, the former housing and urban development secretary, heaped praise onto the two-term governor, who is now seeking reelection in Washington. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke warmly of Inslee when mentioning one of his suggestions for regular people to reduce emissions — washing clothes in cold water.

And California Sen. Kamala Harris borrowed a joke Inslee made at a previous debate — that wind turbines don't cause cancer, as Trump has falsely contended. They spark jobs.

“I’m going to steal a line from Jay Inslee,” Harris warned before delivering the retort.

Most significantly, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts explicitly adopted parts of Inslee's lengthy climate plan as her own on the eve of the debate, including a 10-year plan to eliminate heat-trapping emissions from power plants, vehicles and buildings, as well as an additional $1 trillion in spending to make that move.

“He said, 'Have at them,' " Warren said of Inslee's plans. “They’re open-sourced.”

Inslee first made a name for himself nationally by trying twice to pass a ballot initiative in Washington state to create the nation's first carbon tax, which many economists praise as an economically efficient way of discouraging the release of the heat-trapping pollution.

But in a sign of just how difficult it is to pass climate legislation viewed as costly by taxpayers, voters rejected Inslee's initiatives both times.

Whether or not they mentioned Inslee, candidates at the CNN forum often spoke frankly about how difficult it would be to eliminate the nation's carbon footprint.

“This is the hardest thing we will have done in my lifetime as a country,” said Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind. “On par with winning World War II.”

He added: “Maybe more challenging than that.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker drove home that point, too. If elected, he said, “I’m going to ask more of you than any other president in your lifetime."

Pushed by Inslee and other progressives in the field, including Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the 10 participants each staked out positions far to the left of what even the Obama administration sought on climate change.

Harris and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, for example, reiterated calls for a complete ban on leasing federal lands and waters for fossil-fuel extraction. Businessman and candidate Andrew Yang said the Paris accords — President Obama's signature climate achievement, under which more than 190 nations volunteered to cut emissions — “didn’t go far enough.” The Trump administration has withdrawn the nation from the global agreement.

With the broadcast punctuated with updates on the torrential rain and wind Hurricane Dorian is delivering to the East Coast, the CNN forum did bring into relief the differences between the candidates when the hosts and audience members drilled down on the details.

Castro, Klobuchar and former vice president Joe Biden defended their opposition to a nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to extract otherwise hard-to-reach natural gas. Though still a carbon-based fuel, natural gas emits less CO2 into the air than oil and coal in order to produce the same amount of energy.

“I see natural gas as a transitional fuel, it is better than oil, but it's not nearly as good as wind and solar,” Klobuchar said. Biden, meanwhile, suggested he doesn’t think there are enough votes “to get it done” in Congress.

Biden was also grilled by an audience member about a fundraiser for him Thursday hosted by a co-founder, Andrew Goldman, of a natural gas company Western LNG, even after promising to not take money from fossil-fuel executives. Biden said Goldman wasn’t an executive at the company. But the ex-senator added that if it turns out Goldman is still involved with the company, he wouldn’t “in any way accept his help.”

Harris, meanwhile, staked out a new position on fracking. Whereas in 2016 she was “very skeptical of fracking,” during the CNN town hall Harris clearly said  she would seek to ban it outright.

“There is no question I am in favor of banning fracking,” Harris said.

And while in the past the California Democrat has said she felt "conflicted" about maintaining the Senate's 60-vote filibuster to pass most legislation, Harris pledged to try to strike down the procedure if needed to pass a Green New Deal.

Sanders defended the size of his $16.3 trillion climate plan, as well as his opposition to keeping nuclear power plants open — even though they produce more than half of the nation's carbon-free electricity, citing the risk of disasters such as meltdowns and the difficulty of storing nuclear waste.

“We got a heck of a lot of nuclear waste,” he said.

POWER PLAYS

— Another day, another rollback: This time, the Trump administration is reversing Obama-era regulations for energy-efficient lightbulbs. The Energy Department issued two final rules to extend the life of energy intensive incandescent lightbulbs that were set to be phased out by Jan. 1, The Post’s Steven Mufson reports. “The rollback will mean $14 billion a year in higher energy costs and add to the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy,” he reports. The agency called a phase-out of the bulbs a “lose-lose” for consumers because more efficient bulbs would cost more.

The reaction: In a statement, the president of the Alliance to Save Energy said: “The Energy Department flat out got it wrong today. Instead of moving us forward, this rule will keep more energy-wasting bulbs on store shelves and saddle the average American household with about $100 in unnecessary energy costs every year. If you wanted folks to pay a lot more than they should on electric bills, this rollback would be a pretty good way of doing it.”

— Trump’s error-filled climate Twitter thread: The president made several errors about the climate and environment in boastful comments on Twitter, The Post’s Steven Mufson and Chris Mooney report. They break down those missives, which Trump posted ahead of the marathon climate town hall.

  • In one, the president said: “Which country has the largest carbon emission reduction? AMERICA." While the United States did have the biggest decrease in total emissions from 2005 through 2017, experts say that was due to a shift from coal plants to natural gas-fired electric plants, a shift that has slowed. And in 2018, emissions bounced back up. And in measuring “a percentage of total emissions, arguably a more relevant metric, the U.S. performance has been outdone by many countries.” Over that period, U.S. emissions fell 14 percent while Britain’s, Italy’s, France’s plunged 33 percent, 28 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
  • In another, Trump said China has “dumped the most carbon into the air.” The reality: “China has overtaken the United States as the biggest annual emitter, but China still has a long way to go before it catches up with all the emissions the United States has dumped into the atmosphere during the industrial era."
  • In a third, Trump said American has the “cleanest and safest air and water.” Mooney and Mufson point to a previous Fact-Checker post that examined the presidents’ assertions that the United States as the world’s “cleanest air” and “cleanest climate” and even the “cleanest water.” The United States “ranks 10th for air quality — but 88th on exposure to particulate matter, an indication of the health effects from pollution — and 29th for water and sanitation,” The Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote then. “The United States is tied for first place — with nine other countries — for the quality of drinking water.”

THERMOMETER

DORIAN WATCH

The latest: The latest: Dorian regained Category 3 intensity and as of Thursday morning, the storm was blasting the Carolinas and had “already flooded parts of downtown Charleston, S.C., with a combination of storm surge and rainfall runoff, prompting a flash-flood warning through midmorning there, in addition to a storm-surge warning,” The Post’s Jason Samenow and Andrew Freedman report. “Already on Thursday, residents of coastal South and North Carolina were losing power as tropical-storm-force winds ramped up close to 70 mph, with hurricane-force winds expected to overspread coastal South Carolina during the morning. Tropical-storm and hurricane conditions are anticipated for coastal North Carolina late Thursday.” If the storm makes landfall in North Carolina, it could be the state’s first Category 3 to hit since 1996.

Historic flooding anticipated: Coastal Georgia and the Carolinas were already seeing rising water levels on Wednesday and were expected to see up to five to eight feet of storm-surge flooding as Dorian closes in, The Post’s Andrew Freedman reports. “Sea-level rise caused by human-caused global warming and land subsidence will exacerbate coastal flooding in locations such as Charleston, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C.,” he writes. “If Charleston were to see a four-to-seven-foot surge at the time of high tide, large parts of downtown would be flooded, and the event could go down in history as the second-highest water level on record there, behind only Hurricane Hugo. That storm struck in 1989 as a Category 4.”

Some residents won’t budge: The reality of climate change and repeated major storms has settled in for residents in North Carolina, write The Post’s Kirk Ross and Frances Stead Sellers. A triple blow of devastating hurricanes — Matthew in 2016, Florence in September 2018 and Michael weeks later — has had a profound impact on thinking here. The debate is no longer about ‘if’ another megastorm will come but ‘when,’” they write. But even as state leaders look to be proactive in dealing with extreme weather, some residents are finding the idea of relocation as part of a climate resilience strategy to be challenging.

The science behind Dorian’s dangerous qualities: There’s a strong case for the ways the hurricane, which made 2019 the fourth consecutive year in which a Category 5 hurricane formed in the Atlantic, is linked to climate change. “Warmer oceans fuel more extreme storms; rising sea levels bolster storm surges and lead to worse floods,” The Post’s Sarah Kaplan reports.

And the way that Dorian stalled for nearly two days over the islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, surprised even NASA scientist Tim Hall, who has analyzed more than seven decades of Atlantic hurricane data and found storms are now much more likely to stall and create devastating circumstances.

“Shocking though the storm has been, meteorologists and climate scientists say it bears hallmarks of what hurricanes will increasingly look like as the climate warms,” Kaplan writes. She adds that while scientists stress no one weather disaster can be linked to climate change, researchers can “evaluate how much worse the disaster was made as a result of human-caused warming, and how likely it is that this type of disaster will occur again. When it comes to Dorian, Hall said, the answers to both those questions are grim.”

— About that altered National Hurricane Center map: Trump held up a map in the Oval Office that appeared to have a Sharpie-drawn curvature to indicate that Dorian’s path would move into Alabama. The change may have been an attempt to cover up for an erroneous tweet earlier in the week in which Trump warned the state would be impacted by Dorian, which prompted the National Weather Service in Birmingham to tweet that there would be no such impact, The Post’s Matthew Cappucci and Freedman report. Asked later in the day about the chart, the president insisted his briefings included a “95 percent chance probability” that Alabama would be hit. Asked about the drawn-on map, Trump responded: “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Why this is important: “Alerting official government weather forecasts isn’t just a cause for concern — it’s actually illegal,” Cappucci and Freedman write. “Per 18 U.S. Code 2074, which addresses false weather reports, ‘Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.’”

Trump again took to Twitter this morning to defend himself on the subject:

You can compare the versions, shared by The Post's Capital Weather Gang, here: 

Late-night hosts were quick to pounce:

— Trump dismisses concerns about directing FEMA funds to border: As Dorian heads toward the Carolinas, the president also batted down concerns about the administration's move to shift money meant for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to instead pay for resources to address the influx of migrants at the southern border. Trump cited the changing path of the storm that narrowly scraped by the Florida coast. “We’re using much less here than we anticipated. We thought this was going to be a direct – originally this was going to be a direct hit into Miami and we would have been satisfied anyway,” he said. “No, we need help at the border.”

And yet... The Defense Department has released details of funding shifts from military projects toward fencing and barriers for the southern border with Mexico and the plans include defunding Hurricane Maria recovery projects at military installations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, The Post’s Paul Sonne and Seung Min Kim report. “The decisions deal a particular blow to Puerto Rico, which stands to see more than $400 million worth of planned projects lose funding,” they write.

DAYBOOK

Today

  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) gives a keynote address at the Houston Oil Forum.
  • The United States Energy Association holds a briefing on carbon utilization on Thursday.

 Coming Up

  • 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

— Dorian's far reach: From the Capital Weather Gang's Cappucci, a view of the leading edge of the storm's outflow can be seen from the Washington region.