THE LIGHTBULB

Several White House hopefuls unveiled ads this week trashing President Trump for refusing to crack down on polluters and work with other world leaders to slow global warming.

The advertising blitz comes as negotiators from other countries meet at a United Nations climate summit in Madrid try to hammer out the details of implementing the Paris climate accord, an agreement from which Trump has promised to withdraw. 

The latest candidate out with a climate ad is former vice president Joe Biden, who is leading most national polls. 

“The rest of the world hasn’t given up on the Paris climate accord,” Biden said in the nearly two-minute spot released this morning. “They’re pushing it. They know it’s essential to human existence.”

The new spots are the latest sign that climate change, once an afterthought in past presidential elections, has become a key issue in the race for the Democratic nomination. Recent polling by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Americans increasingly see climate change as a crisis, with Democrats more likely than Republicans to say that human activity is fueling rising temperatures.

The Biden campaign, in the ad titled “The Only Way,” is doubling doubled down on its argument that the former vice president has the best chance of beating Trump in the general election.

“The first and most important plank in my climate proposal is: Beat Trump.” Biden said.

His campaign is rolling out the ad online on the fourth anniversary of the approval of the international climate accord in Paris. Biden's team is spending a five-figure sum to promote the video in Iowa, the first state in the nation to vote in the 2020 nomination.

Biden, noting that no amount of U.S. greenhouse gas reductions will matter if other countries continue polluting, has made rejoining the Paris agreement of the fulcrum of his climate policy. 

The U.N. talks also gave other candidates an opening to put a spotlight on global warming: Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg was in Madrid, in a prime spot to take shots at Trump for abandoning the climate agreement.

“The reason I am here in Madrid is really pretty simple: I am here because no one from the White House is here,” Bloomberg told an overflow crowd on Tuesday before flying to San Francisco to address the American Geophysical Union’s annual conference as part of a whirlwind climate tour. 

His campaign also released an ad focused on a different impact of climate change — wildfires in California.

His spot, called “A Champion For Climate,” features dramatic images of burning hillsides in California and calls Trump a “climate denier” who “consistently sides with polluters.” The billionaire’s campaign is promoting the online-only spot in California. 

And businessman Andrew Yang, who has built his candidacy on a signature policy of paying every American adult $1,000 a month, is trying to broaden his appeal by turning to the issue of climate change in his latest ad in Iowa.

“Iowa has suffered devastating floods and tornadoes,” Yang said in the spot, which his campaign is spending about $500,000 to broadcast in Iowa. “Other states, scorching wildfires and super hurricanes. Our climate is in crisis.”

Much of the Midwest, including stretches of western Iowa along the Missouri River and eastern Iowa along the Mississippi, was inundated earlier this year with record flooding thought by scientists to have been made worse by the warmer and more humid atmosphere.

POWER PLAYS

— More on Time's “Person of the Year”: Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist, is the youngest ever to receive the magazine’s annual acknowledgment. “She became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement,” Time Editor in Chief Edward Felsenthal said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. Thunberg shared a tweet about the distinction: 

How she’s using her fame to put pressure on world leaders: Just before the magazine made its announcement Wednesday, the 16-year-old spoke in Madrid, offering a blunt assessment on what the world is lacking in climate action, The Post’s Brady Dennis writes in this dispatch. “The changes required are still nowhere in sight. The politics needed does not exist today, despite what you hear from world leaders,” she said. “I still believe the biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs make it look like real action is happening, when in fact, almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”

  • High expectations: “By the time she stepped to one more podium in front of one more crowd, the question was not what the diminutive teenager might say, but rather what words she might choose to once again excoriate world leaders,” Dennis writes. “…But another question hung over the proceedings: Would the change that she insisted was coming actually materialize? Would the millions of activists she helped rally actually spur leaders to act with more urgency? And when? The answer is one tied up in economic realities, national and global politics and bureaucratic delays that have left nations far off course from the promises they made in Paris in 2015.”
  • Of course, Trump has something to say... The president mocked Thunberg on Twitter by suggesting that she has anger issues and that she should take up an activity, going to the movies, more befitting a teenager.

— The Trump administration issued just over 1 million acres in oil and gas leases in Alaska: The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday held the auction on America’s largest piece of public land, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The auction, which netted just under $11.3 million, comes as the Trump administration is looking to expand oil drilling on the federal reserve. Environmentalists and some Alaska Natives oppose the idea of expanding fossil fuel development in the area, which provides habitat for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds and tens of thousands of caribou.

  • Who bid? North Slope Exploration, a firm that only registered with the state of Delaware two weeks ago, bought 86 out of the 92 tracts sold at auction. While the company did not return calls seeking comment, paperwork it filed in Alaska indicates it is a subsidiary of Armstrong Oil and Gas, a Denver-based firm owned by prospector William Armstrong. Armstrong made a major oil discovery in 2017 on state land in Alaska’s North Slope, not far from the reserve, and later sold his stake to Oil Search. Oil Search, a Papua New Guinea-based firm, hired former Interior official Joe Balash in August.
  • The reaction: Ted Murphy, BLM Associate State Director for Alaska, told reporters in a call after the sale, “It’s exciting to receive bids on more than 25 percent of the tracts we offered, as well as to see new players like North Slope Exploration coming into the NPR-A.” But Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, questioned why the administration was leasing federal land at such low prices: “At $11 per acre in the Western Arctic, oil speculators are getting a sweetheart deal and taxpayers are getting the shaft.”

-Juliet Eilperin 

— 2 million Americans still don’t have running water: A recent report from two national nonprofit organizations reveals that troubling statistic and details stark race-based inequities in water access nationwide. Native American households, for one, are 19 times more likely than white households to not have indoor plumbing, while black and Latino households are twice as likely, The Post’s Frances Stead Sellers reports.

  • What it’s like in the country’s largest Indian reservation: “In the Navajo Nation … where water has long been held sacred, about one-third of the population of more than 300,000 does not have a tap or flushing toilet,” she writes. And for those that try to access nearby water sources, the water may be contaminated, “some with naturally occurring toxins such as arsenic, some with uranium and other byproducts of the mining industry.”
  • Where’s the funding?: Federal money to pay for water infrastructure is a fraction of what it was in the 1970s following the passage of the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water acts. Now, the American Water Works Association estimates “maintaining and expanding the country’s water systems will cost $1 trillion over the next 25 years. The Indian Health Service has put a price tag of $200 million for providing water and sanitation in the Navajo Nation.”

— The House voted 377-48 vote to pass a $738 billion defense policy bill without PFAS protections: “Some lawmakers also had hoped to see more-extensive requirements for the Pentagon to deal with PFAS contamination of groundwater and drinking water on military installations,” The Post’s Paul Sonne and Karoun Demirjian write. “The bill phases out the use of PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals, in firefighting foams. The Pentagon is still conducting a health impact study on the chemicals.” 

  • The bill also includes sanctions meant to block Russian gas pipeline: Included in the National Defense Authorization Act are provisions imposing sanctions meant to block the completion of the pipeline to carry Russian natural gas to Germany. “The measure could set back one of Europe’s largest energy deals for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which U.S. lawmakers view as a geopolitical gambit by Russia to strengthen its grip on European energy markets,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

— Trump vs. California: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) met with Quebec Premier François Legault in the state capital to talk about plans to tackle climate change and ways to defend the climate pact between the pair of governments, even as the Trump administration has sued to invalidate the agreement, Politico reports

  • Part of the state’s M.O.: “Indeed, the partnership with Quebec is just one of dozens of interlocking agreements California has struck with other cities and countries — a form of climate diplomacy that former Gov. Jerry Brown championed as a counterweight or insurance policy against federal uncertainty.”
  • An example for future agreements: “I think Quebec is learning from California, and people are learning from the California and Quebec experience of collaborating,” said Mark Purdon, a professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

— College Republicans launch climate campaign: Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends, a new group started by college Republicans from across the country, is calling on the Republican Party to address climate change, the Hill reports. Harvard senior Kiera O’Brien, the group’s founder, specifically cited the progressive Green New Deal and said, “We need to have our own alternative policies, because we can’t just complain about the problem and not propose a solution.” The campaign is hoping for a free-market plan to curb emissions.

— GAO will probe controversial BLM relocation plan: House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) announced the government watchdog will look into the administration's move to relocate the agency’s headquarters from Washington to Colorado. “The Government Accountability Office has agreed to review this move and determine if it was properly planned, analyzed, and whether it will deliver the benefits that the administration has been claiming,” Grijalva said at a news conference. “The Interior Department needs to show its work, finally.” Committee Democrats noted employees of the agency are facing a Thursday deadline to decide whether to relocate or lose their jobs. 

— Environmental group launches impeachment ad campaign: The Sierra Club is spending five figures on a geographically targeted digital advertising campaign to urge Republican lawmakers to impeach Trump. The ads “link to a website that allows users to send prewritten emails to their members of Congress accusing Trump of ‘bribery and abuse of power’ — one of the articles of impeachment Democrats are pushing against him — and saying he ‘must be held accountable and be impeached,’ ” E&E News reports. Some of the ads read: “We can't have a livable planet without a functioning democracy” and “Trump is a threat to democracy.”

  • Who is being targeted: The ads target the constituents of 14 House GOPers, including residents in districts of retiring Republican lawmakers including Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Will Hurd (R-Tex.) and Francis Rooney (R-Fla.). 

— Donald Trump Jr. got approval to hunt an endangered sheep ... after he killed it: The president’s son shot and killed an endangered argali, the largest living sheep, during a hunting trip in a remote region of western Mongolia in August. “Trump Jr. received special treatment during his summer trip,” ProPublica reports. “…The Mongolian government granted Trump Jr. a coveted and rare permit to slay the animal retroactively on Sept. 2, after he’d left the region following his trip.” 

  • Why it’s notable: “It’s unusual for permits to be issued after a hunter’s stay. It was one of only three permits to be issued in that hunting region, local records show,” per the report. “…In response to questions from ProPublica about the hunting trip, a spokesman for Trump Jr., an avid outdoorsman, said in a statement it was a purely personal expedition.”

— PG&E’s wildfire woes: The preemptive power outages in Northern California could double in 15 years or quadruple in 30 years if the company doesn’t hasten its work to replace aging power lines that have been in part blamed for deadly wildfires in the state. That’s according to an analysis by the National Electric Testing, Research and Applications Center at Georgia Tech that was commissioned by the utility. 

  • What needs to happen: “To prevent this outcome, the utility would need to replace at least 1,200 miles of its oldest distribution lines each year. At that pace, the utility’s distribution system would be completely refreshed every 67 years, the study found,” Journal reports. “At the current proposed level of replacement — about 100 circuit miles annually due to aging — researchers said it would take the utility about 230 years to refresh its distribution system. They assumed the typical electric wire has a useful life of about 83 years.”

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a business meeting on pending legislation.
  • The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on the U.S. Coast Guard Arctic strategic outlook.

EXTRA MILEAGE

— The last full moon of the decade: The moon rose at 4:35 p.m. on Wednesday and "will emerge into the sky at 99.9 percent illumination, peaking briefly at full brilliance at 12:12 a.m. Eastern Thursday," The Post's Matthew Cappucci writes. It's the last full moon until Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.