with Paulina Firozi


Another week, another town hall about climate change.

MSNBC kicked off its televised climate forum for 2020 presidential candidates at Georgetown University on Thursday, inviting a dozen White House hopefuls to sit down and answer questions from moderators and college students ahead of a major youth climate march on Friday. The two-day event comes just two weeks after one of MSNBC's rivals, CNN, staged its own seven-hour-long climate forum.

The candidates didn't deviate much from what they've said in past campaign speeches and during previous debates. But there were a few thing that caught the Energy 202's eye:

Bernie Sanders and fossil-fuel jobs: The Vermont senator acknowledged to MSNBC host Chris Hayes that his ambitious plan to end the use of fossil fuels will lead to the loss of jobs in the oil, gas and coal sectors.

  • What he said: "I’m not going to say Chris, you know if you want to press the point, that there aren’t people who will be hurt. I got that. And it doesn’t make me happy." 
  • Why it matters: For a candidate who likes to call himself the most "pro-worker" member of Congress, any potential pink slips are a weak spot in pitching his $16.3 trillion Green New Deal. But Sanders added that transitioning to a cleaner economy will create "up to 20 million good paying jobs." His climate plan also recognizes the issue too, offering five years of unemployment insurance and other benefits to laid-off oil field workers, coal miners and other laborers.

Andrew Yang and GDP: The tech entrepreneur made his pitch for reforming the way gross domestic product, or GDP, is calculated.

  • What he said: "As your president, I'm just going to go down the street to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and say: Hey. GDP. A hundred years old. Kind of out of date. Let's modernize it."
  • Why it matters: The oft-cited statistic is supposed to track a nation's entire economic output. But an increasing number of left-leaning economists and other thinkers — including Yang — say it falls short as a measure of well-being since it does not properly take into account damage to the environment.

John Delaney and emergency powers: The former Maryland congressman suggested he would consider invoking emergency powers as president to tackle climate change.

  • What he said: "I would use every single executive authority I could possibly muster, including considering a national emergency, to get this done ... That's how important I think this is."
  • Why it matters: Delaney is not the only candidate to suggest using an emergency declaration to fund emissions-reduction efforts should Congress fail to pass climate legislation with the next Democratic president. So have Sanders and financier Tom Steyer. But the fact that a self-described moderate like Delaney would consider taking that step suggests the idea is gaining traction with elected Democrats. Delaney, though, did go on to note that the only way to make "enduring change" is by passing laws.

Marianne Williamson and national service: The author and activist told students listening at Georgetown she wants to compel their age group into serving in a climate-related national service program.

  • What she said: "I'm going to ask all of you. Maybe not all of you. I would like to ask you your opinion. I think during this season of repair we should have a mandatory national service — one year — for people between the ages of 18 and 26, because we need you. We need to fix this climate."
  • Why it matters: The idea of a "climate corps" — something akin to the Peace Corps launched in 1961 by John F. Kennedy — has been suggested by other candidates, such as Delaney and Cory Booker, as a way of preparing communities for the effects of climate change and responding to natural disasters. But none of the other White House hopefuls are asking for mandatory service.

Rounding out Thursday's lineup were Michael Bennet, Julian Castro and Tim Ryan. Booker, Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Bill Weld, who is challenging President Trump in the primary, are set to speak Friday.


— “This is not a regular meeting of the U.N.”: Ahead of Monday’s much-anticipated climate summit at the United Nations in New York, the U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has traversed the globe urging leaders to urgently seek solutions to climate change.  The summit will be a test of whether that message has seeped through, The Post’s Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson report.

  • Who is speaking: U.N. officials said only nations with meaningful new climate pledges will be able to speak. Guterres has asked countries attending to bring “promises of tangible action, such as vowing to reach net zero emissions by 2050, scaling back fossil fuel subsidies and halting construction of new coal-fired power plants.”
  • Who is not: That means the United States isn't invited to give a speech.
  • “It is very important for the United States to come back to the Paris agreement," Guterres said. "But that is not only a question for the government; it’s a question for the whole of American society."
  • The backdrop: “On Friday, hundreds of thousands of teenagers around the world are expected to hold strikes to push for more urgent climate action. Among the largest of those protests will happen in New York, led by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg," Mufson and Dennis write.

— Amazon signs on to climate pledge: Jeff Bezos announced Amazon is the first to sign a “Climate Pledge,” a pact the company has crafted to meet the Paris climate agreement goals 10 years ahead of schedule.

  • What it does: “Speaking in Washington with former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres, Bezos said the agreement would require signatories to measure and report their emissions on a regular basis,” The Post’s Rachel Siegel and Jay Greene report. “The pledge would require companies to implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris agreement and calls on signatories to be at net zero carbon across their businesses by 2040. Any remaining carbon emissions would be neutralized with quantifiable and permanent offsets to achieve the pledge’s goal.”
  • Pressure from within: The announcement comes a day before 1,000 employees of the e-commerce giant are set to walk out to protest Amazon’s climate inaction. Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post.

— 3 billion birds gone: North America's bird population dropped by 29 percent in the last 50 years, according to a new study from top ornithologists and government agencies who called the loss an “overlooked biodiversity crisis.”

  • “This is not an extinction crisis — yet,” The Post’s Karin Bruilliard reports. “It is a more insidious decline in abundance as humans dramatically alter the landscape: There are 29 percent fewer birds in the United States and Canada today than in 1970, the study concludes.”
  • The causes: It's "death by a thousand cuts," according to lead study author Ken Rosenberg. The primary drivers are agriculture and habitat loss, with other factors like light pollution (which disorients them), buildings (which they crash into) and cats (which eat them) contributing.

— EPA pushes back on an E&E News investigation:  A recent, deeply reported story from E&E News found EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson has intervened numerous times in the agency’s environmental enforcement process. In one case, he helped fix a $100,000 problem for a fellow Oklahoma Republican whose client was accused of emitting smog-forming pollution.

“Jackson's previously unreported role as an enforcement fixer for friends and allies — pieced together from internal agency records, enforcement documents, company financial filings and interviews — makes some former career EPA enforcement staffers question whether Jackson is abusing his powerful position to benefit favored companies and lobbyists,” E&E News reports. 

The pushback: Jackson and another EPA official told the publication that it wasn’t a problem for him or any political appointee to get involved in such cases. “A chief of staff has specific responsibilities, but broader responsibilities to ensure a variety of things get completed, addressed, and worked out,” Jackson said. In a series of tweets from the agency’s main account, the EPA said the story was “full of more inaccurate innuendo than EPA has time to correct.” It also resurfaced a press release from February in which it called another E&E News story “hogwash.”

— The U.S. is less susceptible than before to oil price shocks: Fuel prices in the United States could still climb in the coming weeks if Saudi Arabia’s oil production doesn’t rebound after the weekend’s attacks on key oil facilities. “But these days the United States isn’t quite as vulnerable to oil price shocks,” The Post’s Jeanne Whalen writes, adding previous disruptions to oil exports in the Middle East had a larger impact on U.S. fuel prices. “A decade-long boom in domestic extraction has turned the United States into the world’s largest oil producer, a position that will cushion the economy in new ways, economists and energy experts say.”

— The latest on Tropical Storm Imelda: The storm drenching major metropolitan areas in Texas is already the fifth wettest tropical cyclone to ever hit the Lower 48 states. “Roughly two feet of rain has engulfed parts of this vast, highly populated area since Wednesday morning, while some areas have seen over three feet,” The Post’s Matthew Cappucci, Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow report. “More than 1,000 high water rescues were conducted in Harris County alone, according to the county’s fire marshal.” The storm has left at least two people dead as the heavy down pour “shut down major roadways, triggered hundreds of calls for help and invited comparisons to Hurricane Harvey of 2017 as Gov. Greg Abbott (R) declared a state of emergency for portions of the state,” The Post’s Brittney Martin, Brittany Shammas and Hannah Knowles report.

— The biggest Arctic expedition in history: The German icebreaker RV Polarstern is about to set sail with scores of scientists and researchers hoping to understand how climate change is impacting the North Pole, The Post’s Sarah Kaplan reports. It’s an at least $134 million project that’s been in the works for a decade. “As winter darkness descends on the Arctic, the adventurers will allow the sea to freeze around their vessel, trapping them. The Polarstern will spend the next 12 months drifting slowly across the pole, as scientists collect crucial observations on the water, the ice, the air and the living inhabitants, until summer melting finally sets the ship free,” she writes.



  • The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy holds a hearing on building a 100 percent clean economy.

Coming Up

  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on forecasting and communicating extreme weather in a changing climate on Sept. 26.


— The battle over wild horses: Here's why some wild horses are the most controversial animals in the West, from The Post's Karin Bruilliard.