Science Policy & Funding News

Legislators Introduce Climate Emergency Resolution

The resolution, which legislators hope the House of Representatives will approve, calls for a massive mobilization to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of climate change.

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“The national emergency is not the border. It’s the climate,” U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said at a 9 July briefing in which he, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced that they were introducing in Congress a concurrent resolution that would declare a national climate emergency.

“The entire planet, including the United States, has 12 years to reverse the disastrous direction we’re heading into when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions,” Blumenauer said. “It’s time for Congress to take a stand.”

The resolution for Congress to consider states that “it is the sense of Congress that the global warming caused by human activities, which increase emissions of greenhouse gases, has resulted in a climate emergency.” This emergency severely affects the nation’s economic and social well-being, as well as its health, safety, and national security, according to the resolution, which currently has 33 cosponsors in the House. In addition, the resolution states that the climate emergency requires a massive mobilization at a national scale “to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations.”

Declaring a “climate emergency is frankly acknowledging the actual scientific facts,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the briefing. “While we will constantly hear from opponents and climate deniers and climate delayers that we need to do more research and get more information, we know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. We know that the scientific consensus is here, that the solutions are right in front of us.”

Ocasio-Cortez is one of the sponsors of the proposed Green New Deal, an ambitious congressional resolution to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, among other goals. Declaring a climate emergency would help Congress to enact sweeping reforms and legislation to help people cope with climate change, she said. “In order for us to enact the scale of the solution, we have to acknowledge the scale of the problem, and that is exactly what declaring a climate emergency does.”

Blumenauer said that declaring a climate emergency is a first step to moving forward with the Green New Deal.

More than 700 governments in 16 countries have declared a climate emergency, including Portugal, the Greater London Authority, and New York City.

Taking On the Fossil Fuel Industry

Sanders called climate change an existential threat to the planet and said that there is “a moral imperative” to deal with it. “We are going to have to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry and the ignorance of [President] Donald Trump and transform our energy system in a very bold way,” he said.

At the briefing, representatives from several environmental advocacy groups said that they hope that some Republican members of Congress will support the resolution. “It’s ultimately pretty ludicrous that this [resolution] isn’t a complete consensus position by both Democrats and Republicans to understand the severity of the climate crisis and do something about it,” said Varshini Prakash, founder and executive director of Sunrise Movement, an organization advocating for the Green New Deal and other measures to fight climate change.

Margaret Klein Salamon, founder and executive director of The Climate Mobilization, a group calling for mass mobilization to reverse climate change, said, “We would love to work with Republicans, but we are totally unwilling to compromise on the truth of the scale of the emergency and the scale of the necessary response to protect humanity and the natural world.”

—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2019), Legislators introduce climate emergency resolution, Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO128447. Published on 10 July 2019.
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