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The Climate 202

Half of voters say climate change is important in midterms, poll finds

The Climate 202

Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! On this Indigenous Peoples' Day, we're rereading this piece about what Indigenous people can teach us about fighting climate change. 

ICYMI, President Biden will travel to Colorado this week to designate his first national monument. Maxine broke the news of the expected designation last month. But first:

Half of voters say climate change is important in next month's midterm elections, poll finds

With less than a month until Election Day, roughly half of registered voters say climate change is either “very important” or “one of the most important issues” in their vote for Congress, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.

As Republicans work to wrest control of the House and Senate from Democrats, the results are divided along party lines. Among adults, roughly 8 in 10 Democrats (79 percent) say climate change is at least very important in their vote, compared with 46 percent of independents and 27 percent of Republicans.

Similar shares of voters of all ages say global warming is a priority at the ballot box. That's a change from previous polls that have shown younger Americans worry more about Earth's rapid warming, which is more likely to affect them in the form of raging wildfires, rising seas and stronger storms.

Other main findings include:

  • Consistent with previous polls, Black Americans (69 percent) and Hispanic Americans (58 percent) are more likely to say climate change is important in their vote than White Americans (46 percent). Those findings come as research shows that communities of color are disproportionately exposed to dirty air, tainted water and other environmental hazards.
  • Overall, climate change ranked below the six other issues tested in the poll, including the economy, abortion, crime and immigration. While 51 percent of registered voters say climate change is important in their vote, that compares with 85 percent who say the economy is important.
  • The gap is smaller when it comes to the highest category of importance. Roughly 14 percent of registered voters say climate change is “one of the most important issues” in their vote, below the economy (27 percent) and abortion (22 percent) but similar to immigration (14 percent) and crime (13 percent).

The poll also surveyed Americans on which party they trust more to handle pressing issues facing the nation. 

  • Democrats had a 21-point advantage on trust to handle climate change, their largest lead on any issue tested. 
  • Still, that is smaller than in 2018, when voters trusted Democrats by a 32-point margin to handle the issue during a strong Democratic year.
‘The single most important issue’

Richard Walker, 38, a software engineer and registered independent in Annapolis, Md., was one of several poll respondents who said they trust Democrats more to tackle climate change. In an interview, he noted that many GOP candidates deny both the scientific consensus on global warming and the outcome of the last presidential election.

“It is the single most important issue facing all of life on the planet,” Walker said. “And Republicans are standing there saying that climate change is not real and that the election was stolen.”

Alex Montiel, 43, another independent who works on a cattle ranch southeast of Dallas, said he trusts Democrats more to address the climate-change-fueled drought that has parched Texas for more than a year, putting pressure on his herds. “There are periods of droughts in which our lakes and ponds dry up quite considerably, sometimes to the point of purchasing water from the municipalities here to water our livestock,” he said.

Dylan Winters, 21, a registered Democrat and a college student in the nation's capital, said he trusted Democrats more on environmental issues even before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the landmark climate law that no Republicans supported.

“The fact that they got a bill through Congress with Manchin's support was good, although it wasn't enough,” he said, referring to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.).

‘Rock solid ground’ for Republicans

Still, Republican lawmakers who have joined the Conservative Climate Caucus have not suffered politically this election cycle —  at least so far. 

House Conservative Climate Caucus members amassed a 62-5 win-loss record in their 2022 primary elections, and those who won triumphed by an average margin of 59.3 percent, according to a recent analysis by the Climate Leadership Council and Americans for Carbon Dividends, two conservative climate groups.

“There is a declining misperception that climate is somehow unsafe terrain for Republicans,” Climate Leadership Council CEO Greg Bertelsen said in an interview. “These results are fairly convincing that Republicans in Congress can work on climate change and be on rock solid ground with their base.”

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted Sept. 18-21 among a random national sample of 1,006 U.S. adults, with 75 percent reached on cellphones and 25 percent on landlines. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; the error margin is four points among the sample of 908 registered voters.

The poll was conducted during Hurricane Fiona, which made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, but before the arrival of Hurricane Ian, which slammed into southwest Florida on Sept. 28. (Experiencing a weather disaster can influence a person's climate change beliefs, research has shown.)

On the Hill

Climate bill positions Big Oil to cash in on carbon capture subsidies

The climate bill that President Biden signed into law this summer contains billions of dollars of subsidies for carbon capture — a surge of cash that many experts see as a gift to the fossil fuel industry despite decades of failed experimentation with the technology, The Washington Post's Evan Halper reports.

Carbon capture is the process of trapping carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere and burying it deep underground. The climate law, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, vastly increases the tax credit for carbon capture projects after lobbying by every major oil company. 

However, carbon capture operations have a questionable track record. During the Obama administration, the Energy Department spent $1.1 billion to help launch 11 demonstration projects. Only two of them are operational today.

Ironically, carbon capture has proven most successful at getting more oil out of the ground. In Texas, Occidental Petroleum would be able to use tens — and possibly hundreds — of millions of dollars of the subsidies for its plan to inject trapped carbon into wells to extract more oil. The company has touted the final product as “net-zero oil” — branding that critics call brazenly misleading.

White House, Democrats weigh legislation to punish OPEC

President Biden and congressional Democrats are considering various options to lower gasoline prices after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners moved to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day, Ben Lefebvre and Josh Siegel report for Politico.

In particular, the White House last week pledged to “consult with Congress on additional tools and authorities to reduce OPEC’s control over energy prices,” an apparent reference to legislation that would empower the Justice Department to file antitrust lawsuits against OPEC or its members.

Lawmakers of both parties have pushed the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act for more than two decades. But the measure has never crossed the finish line amid opposition from oil industry groups and OPEC's de facto leader Saudi Arabia.

Now, however, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he is “looking at” the bill, which easily cleared the Judiciary Committee in May. But he has not committed to bringing the measure to the floor amid a packed agenda when the Senate returns after the midterms.

International climate

Biden will attend COP27 in Egypt

President Biden will travel to Egypt next month to attend this year's United Nations climate summit, known as COP27, according to two people familiar with his plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a trip that is not yet public, The Post's Tyler Pager and Michael Birnbaum report.

Biden's expected attendance may give a much-needed boost to the negotiations, which are at risk of delivering little concrete action amid disputes over ambition and funding. Some U.S. officials had not expected Biden to attend the summit because it starts just before the midterm elections, and because he must return to Washington by Nov. 19 to attend his granddaughter’s wedding at the White House.

Biden, who traveled to last year's climate summit in Scotland, will probably tout the Inflation Reduction Act as evidence that the United States is delivering on its pledges under the Paris agreement.

Extreme events

Julia strikes Nicaragua as hurricane with ‘life-threatening’ flooding

Julia made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near Laguna de Perlas, Nicaragua, on Sunday morning before weakening into a tropical storm that could cause “life-threatening flash floods and mudslides” across Central America, according to the National Hurricane Center, Matthew Cappucci and Samantha Schmidt report for The Post.

The storm could dump more than 15 inches of rain on the higher terrain of Nicaragua and El Salvador. Before crashing ashore in Nicaragua, Julia swept across the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andrés, damaging more than 100 homes. 

Julia is the 10th named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. Warmer waters fueled by climate change can help hurricanes intensify rapidly, scientists say.

In the atmosphere

Viral

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