A movement of climate activists wants the world to respond to the growing wave of extreme weather and climate disasters the way they would to a mass shooting — like it’s an emergency. On Tuesday, they got three prominent progressive allies in the United States to publicly join their cause: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
The lawmakers introduced a joint resolution calling for the US to join 16 other countries and hundreds of local governments in declaring a “climate emergency.” New York City declared a climate emergency last month.
“This is a moral imperative. There is no choice. We are going to have to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry and the ignorance of Donald Trump,” Sanders said Tuesday.
A concurrent resolution is nonbinding and does not have the force of law. But Blumenauer said this is the first step toward a Green New Deal, an ambitious progressive resolution Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) proposed earlier this year to address climate change and growing inequality.
It also sends a stark political message about the two parties’ priorities. This week, President Trump held an event about his environmental record, repeating a series of misleading statements about his administration’s policies without acknowledging climate change. The backdrop to the event: flooding in Washington, DC, a historic heat wave in Alaska, and a $19 billion disaster aid package passed by Congress last month for hurricane, wildfire, tornado, and storm relief around the country.
The resolution declares global warming “a climate emergency that severely and urgently impacts the economic and social well-being, health and safety, and national security of the United States,” and calls for “a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive-scale to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations.”
Why there’s a movement to declare climate change a national emergency
Sanders’s presidential campaign has yet to unveil its own climate plan. The senator has supported the Green New Deal framework and said Tuesday that he will be coming out with the “strongest” plan in the current Democratic field. He said specifics were an “ongoing proposal” but cited investments in sustainable energy and public transportation.
But this proposed emergency declaration fits in with Sanders’s most central message: a need for political revolution. On climate change, Ocasio-Cortez says the United States is in a “political crisis of inaction.”
This is well established. Climate policy has become a zero-sum game in Washington, where Republican leaders have made it their political platform to block any climate policy, incremental or bold.
It’s created immense headwind to address what is unmistakably a growing global crisis, which if left unaddressed threatens civilization altogether. Vox’s Dave Roberts puts the magnitude of this hurdle in this context:
The only way Democrats can hope to pass any legislation — not big legislation, any legislation — is by radically shaking up the status quo balance of powers. That would mean getting rid of the filibuster, possibly granting statehood to Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, reforming the Electoral College and voting laws, and possibly expanding the Supreme Court.
So the response from climate activists and progressive lawmakers has been to create a people’s movement — largely in line with how Sanders frames every policy fight. Here’s Roberts explaining this approach:
Here’s the only way any of this works: You develop a vision of politics that puts ordinary people at the center and gives them a tangible stake in the country’s future, a share in its enormous wealth, and a role to play in its greater purpose. Then organize people around that vision and demand it from elected representatives. If elected representatives don’t push for it, make sure they get primaried or defeated. If you want bipartisanship, get it because politicians in purple districts and states are scared to cross you, not because you led them to the sweet light of reason.
Blumenauer said Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency on the southern border to get his wall inspired him to draft this climate emergency resolution. But he’s not the first to think that using the language of national crises is the way to get countries to act — that’s part of a global activist movement to view climate change more urgently.
‘Time to Act for the Future of Our Planet’: Other Lawmakers Urged to Join Fight as Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez Unveil Climate Emergency Declaration
“Instead of remaining complicit in worsening the effects of climate change, members of Congress in both the House and Senate must respond to this resolution with the urgency and support that this moment demands.”
Climate activists and NYC Council members holding a banner as they held a rally on the steps of City Hall, New York. (Photo: Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
After Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday introduced a resolution declaring the climate crisis a national emergency, grassroots environmental groups pressured members of Congress to back the declaration and heed its call for transformative action.
“Instead of remaining complicit in worsening the effects of climate change, members of Congress in both the House and Senate must respond to this resolution with the urgency and support that this moment demands,” said climate group Extinction Rebellion, which is holding a rally in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening to urge lawmakers to sign on to the emergency declaration.
“Today we stand in solidarity with tens of millions of people from around the world in calling for a mass mobilization of our social and economic resources,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “Working to solve the climate crisis will create tens of millions of union jobs, empower communities, and improve the quality of life for people across the globe.”
“What we need now is congressional leadership to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short term profits are not more important than the future of the planet”
—Sen. Bernie SandersThe resolution (pdf), also sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), states “there is a climate emergency which demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.”
Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told reporters during a press call Tuesday that while there are “many, many challenges” facing the United States, “at the top of the list must be the existential threat to our planet in terms of the damage that climate change is doing.”
“What we need now,” Sanders said in a later statement, “is congressional leadership to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short term profits are not more important than the future of the planet. Climate change is a national emergency, and I am proud to be introducing this resolution with my House and Senate colleagues.”
Varshini Prakash, founder of the youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement, said during Tuesday’s press call that everything in the climate emergency resolution must become “the governing mandate for a generation” if the worst of the planetary emergency is to be averted.
“Nothing in here is controversial,” said Prakash. “It is a simple declaration of the truth of this moment and what is needed to confront it. It should be a consensus position for all of our politicians to recognize the emergency for what it is.”
Sanders, Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez Announce Introduction of Climate Emergency Resolution
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
WASHINGTON, July 9 – On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced the introduction of a resolution in both chambers of Congress to declare that the climate emergency facing the planet demands a “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States” in order to “restore the climate for future generations.”
The resolution, cosponsored in the Senate by Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Booker (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Warren (D-Mass.), and Harris (D-Calif.), and 19 members of the House, comes in the wake of President Trump’s environmental speech yesterday, in which he avoided any mention of climate change.
The lawmakers note in the resolution that the “United States has a proud history of collaborative, constructive, massive-scale federal mobilizations of resources and labor in order to solve great challenges, such as the Interstate Highway System, the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Reconstruction, the New Deal, and World War II,” and that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that the global community has little more than a decade to stop the worst impacts of climate change.
The lawmakers’ bicameral recognition of the climate emergency stands in sharp contrast to President Trump’s recent misuse of emergency declarations, manufactured in order to seize funds that Congress refused to appropriate to build a wall on the border with Mexico and to sell Saudi Arabia weapons that Congress had blocked. Climate change, an actual emergency, has been described by Trump as a “hoax.”
“Today, as we face the global crisis of climate change, it is imperative that the United States lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. What we need now is Congressional leadership to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short term profits are not more important than the future of the planet. Climate change is a national emergency, and I am proud to be introducing this resolution with my House and Senate colleagues,” Sanders said.
“To address the climate crisis, we must tell the truth about the nature of this threat,” said Blumenauer. “Congressional Republicans have teetered on the brink of ignorance for far too long and now urgent, massive action is needed. This is an emergency. We must act now.”
“Today we stand in solidarity with tens of millions of people from around the world in calling for a mass mobilization of our social and economic resources. It is time we began a swift transition away from fossil fuels and towards a sustainable renewable energy economy. Climate change represents not only our greatest threat but one of our greatest opportunities. Working to solve the climate crisis will create tens of millions of union jobs, empower communities, and improve the quality of life for people across the globe,” said Ocasio-Cortez.
“The United States is facing a climate crisis. We must speak that truth, and then we must take bold action to confront the existential crisis before us,” said Senator Harris. “In California and across the country, Americans are already seeing the impact of the climate crisis as unprecedented floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and extreme weather events devastate their communities. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this resolution that affirms that the policy of the United States Congress will be based on science fact, not science fiction.”
The resolution is endorsed by 15 independent organizations.
“It’s abundantly clear that climate change has arrived and that we are living in a climate crisis. It’s past time that the federal government recognize this fact and declare a climate emergency. We need bold, comprehensive legislation to move us off fossil fuels and onto a clean energy revolution. This resolution lays out the scope of what we need to do. It’s time to act for the future of our planet,” said Mitch Jones, Climate & Energy Program Director of Food & Water Watch.
“It’s heartening to see members of Congress taking up their authority and calling out the climate crisis as it happens. We are experiencing the effects of a global emergency, right now, in every part of our nation and it demands that we take immediate action that is equitable and to scale. Communities most impacted by this crisis have known for decades that our climate is changing and that it is affecting our health, safety, and the prospects of the next generation. We applaud Sen. Sanders and Reps. Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez for this step, and call on their colleagues in the House and Senate to support this resolution and show their commitment to just climate action today to give us a chance at tomorrow,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America Director of 350 Action.
“The climate crisis poses a threat unlike any other in history. If we fail to mobilize national resources very soon, with the utmost speed and unprecedented scale, we will face catastrophic harm in the coming decades and possibly existential threats to the nation and human civilization by the end of this century. There is nothing more deserving of the ‘emergency’ designation. Senator Sanders and Reps. Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez should be commended for their leadership in calling the climate crisis exactly what it is: a genuine national emergency,” said David Arkush, Managing Director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program.
“We’re in a climate emergency fueled by a democracy emergency — an out-of-control fossil fuel industry is hijacking our government, and it’s time we acted like it and fought back. We the people demand that our government say ‘no’ to Big Oil and ‘yes’ to our futures. This resolution is a critical step toward a system that works for people, not polluters, and we thank Sen. Sanders and Reps. Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez for their bold leadership,” said Stephen Kretzmann, Founder & Executive Director of Oil Change U.S.
“Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) applauds Senator Sanders, Representative Blumenauer and Representative Ocasio-Cortez who continue to demonstrate leadership in addressing the climate crisis with this resolution. Logic dictates that we must clearly name the crisis if we are serious about addressing it. The road to a truly just and regenerative economy begins with recognizing and naming the challenge that confronts us. This resolution is a necessary step on the path to doing just that,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director of Climate Justice Alliance.
Climate and ecological breakdown threatens to destroy human civilization and kill billions of innocent people through mass starvation, wars over declining resources, and in the worst case scenario, a runaway greenhouse effect. This historic national declaration of climate emergency formally acknowledges this unprecedented threat and demands the only sane response: A massive, federal government-led mobilization of all available resources to rapidly halt and reverse global warming through a managed phase out of coal, oil, and gas, a large-scale carbon sequestration effort, and other life-saving measures,” said Ezra Silk, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy & Policy of The Climate Mobilization.
“We are absolutely in a climate emergency, and it’s time all of our elected officials started acting like it. Acknowledging that climate change represents a monumental threat, as this resolution does, is a critical first step. What the American people need to survive this crisis is swift action from our government to end drilling, fracking, and mining for fossil fuels and to invest in a more just, inclusive economy built on renewable energy,” said Janet Redman, Climate Campaign Director, Greenpeace USA.
“For decades our politics has been dominated by fear — fear of fossil fuel corporations, fear of a just transition, and fear of each other. As our leaders have been crippled by fear, we’re now left with only 11 years to rapidly transition off fossil fuels and toward green energy. It’s time to declare a national emergency to stop the crisis and create millions of good-paying jobs in our communities,” said Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats.
To read a summary of the resolution, click here.
To read the resolution, click here.
116TH CONGRESS 1ST SESSION
S. CON. RES. ll
Expressing the sense of Congress that there is a climate emergency which demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. SANDERS submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on llllllllll
Expressing the sense of Congress that there is a climate emergency which demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.
Whereas 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 were the 4 hottest years on record and the 20 warmest years on record have occurred within the past 22 years;
Whereas global atmospheric concentrations of the primary heat-trapping gas, or greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide—
(1) have increased by 40 percent since preindustrial times, from 280 parts per million to 415 parts per mil- lion, primarily due to human activities, including burning fossil fuels and deforestation;
(2) are rising at a rate of 2 to 3 parts per million annually; and
KAT19098 S.L.C. 2
(3) must be reduced to not more than 350 parts per million, and likely lower, ‘‘if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted,’’ according to former National Aeronautics and Space Administration climatologist, Dr. James Hansen;
Whereas global atmospheric concentrations of other green- house gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons, have also increased substantially since preindustrial times, primarily due to human activi- ties, including burning fossil fuels;
Whereas current climate science and real-world observations of climate change impacts, including ocean warming, ocean acidification, floods, droughts, wildfires, and ex- treme weather, demonstrate that a global rise in tempera- tures of 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels is al- ready having dangerous impacts on human populations and the environment;
Whereas the 2018 National Climate Assessment found that climate change due to global warming has caused, and is expected to cause additional, substantial interference with and growing losses to infrastructure, property, industry, recreation, natural resources, agricultural systems, human health and safety, and quality of life in the United States;
Whereas the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra- tion has determined that climate change is already in- creasing the frequency of extreme weather and other cli- mate-related disasters, including drought, wildfire, and storms that include precipitation;
Whereas climate-related natural disasters have increased ex- ponentially over the past decade, costing the United States more than double the long-term average during the period of 2014 through 2018, with total costs of nat- ural disasters during that period of approximately $100,000,000,000 per year;
Whereas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found wide-ranging, acute, and fatal public health con- sequences from climate change that impact communities across the United States;
Whereas the National Climate and Health Assessment of the United States Global Change Research Program identi- fied climate change as a significant threat to the health of the people of the United States, leading to increased—
(1) temperature-related deaths and illnesses;
(2) air quality impacts;
(3) extreme weather events;
(4) numbers of vector-borne diseases;
(5) waterborne illnesses;
(6) food safety, nutrition, and distribution complica- tions; and
(7) mental health and well-being concerns;
Whereas the consequences of climate change already dis- proportionately impact frontline communities and endan- ger populations made especially vulnerable by existing ex- posure to extreme weather events, such as children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing disabilities and health conditions;
Whereas individuals and families on the frontlines of climate change across the United States, including territories, liv- ing with income inequality and poverty, institutional rac- ism, inequity on the basis of gender and sexual orienta-
KAT19098 S.L.C. 4
tion, poor infrastructure, and lack of access to health care, housing, clean water, and food security are often in close proximity to environmental stressors or sources of pollution, particularly communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities, which—
(1) experience outsized risk because of the close proximity of the community to environmental hazards and stressors, in addition to collocation with waste and other sources of pollution;
(2) are often the first exposed to the impacts of cli- mate change; and
(3) have the fewest resources to mitigate those im- pacts or to relocate, which will exacerbate preexisting challenges;
Whereas, according to Dr. Robert Bullard and Dr. Beverly Wright, ‘‘environmental and public health threats from natural and human-made disasters are not randomly dis- tributed,’’ therefore a response to the climate emergency necessitates the adoption of just community transition policies and processes available to all communities, which include policies and processes rooted in principles of ra- cial equity, self-determination, and democracy, as well as the fundamental human right of all people to clean air and water, healthy food, adequate land, education, and shelter;
Whereas climate change holds grave and immediate con- sequences not just for the population of the United States, including territories, but for communities across the world, particularly those communities in the Global South on the frontlines of the climate crisis that are at risk of forced displacement;
Whereas communities in rural, urban, and suburban areas are all dramatically affected by climate change, though the specific economic, health, social, and environmental impacts may be different;
Whereas the Department of State, the Department of De- fense, and the intelligence community have identified cli- mate change as a threat to national security, and the De- partment of Homeland Security views climate change as a top homeland security risk;
Whereas climate change is a threat multiplier—
(1) with the potential to exacerbate many of the
challenges the United States already confronts, including conflicts over scarce resources, conditions conducive to violent extremism, and the spread of infectious diseases; and
(2) because climate change has the potential to produce new, unforeseeable challenges in the future;
Whereas, in 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that the Earth could warm 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels as early as 2030;
Whereas the climatic changes resulting from global warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, in- cluding changes resulting from global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, are pro- jected to result in irreversible, catastrophic changes to public health, livelihoods, quality of life, food security, water supplies, human security, and economic growth;
Whereas, in 2019, the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that human-induced climate change is
KAT19098 S.L.C. 6
pushing the planet toward the sixth mass species extinc- tion, which threatens the food security, water supply, and well-being of billions of people;
Whereas, according to climate scientists, limiting global warming to not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and likely lower, is most likely to avoid irreversible and catastrophic climate change;
Whereas, even with global warming up to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the planet is projected to expe- rience—
(1) a significant rise in sea levels;
(2) extraordinary loss of biodiversity; and
(3) intensifying droughts, prodigious floods, dev-
astating wildfires, and other extreme weather events;
Whereas, according to climate scientists, addressing the cli- mate emergency will require an economically just and managed phase-out of the use of oil, gas, and coal to keep fossil fuels in the ground;
Whereas the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Cli- mate Change has determined that limiting warming through emissions reduction and carbon sequestration will require rapid, and immediate, acceleration and pro- liferation of ‘‘far-reaching, multilevel, and cross-sectoral climate mitigation’’ and ‘‘transitions in energy, land, urban and rural infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems’’;
Whereas, in the United States, massive, comprehensive, and urgent governmental action is required immediately to achieve the transitions of those systems in response to the severe existing and projected economic, social, public
KAT19098 S.L.C. 7
health, and national security threats posed by the climate crisis;
Whereas the massive scope and scale of action necessary to stabilize the climate will require unprecedented levels of public awareness, engagement, and deliberation to de- velop and implement effective, just, and equitable policies to address the climate crisis;
Whereas failure to mobilize and solve the climate emergency is antithetical to the spirit of the Declaration of Inde- pendence in protecting ‘‘unalienable Rights’’ that include ‘‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’’;
Whereas the United States has a proud history of collabo- rative, constructive, massive-scale Federal mobilizations of resources and labor in order to solve great challenges, such as the Interstate Highway System, the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Reconstruction, the New Deal, and World War II;
Whereas the United States stands uniquely poised to sub- stantially grow the economy and attain social and health benefits from a massive mobilization of resources and labor that far outweigh the costs of inaction;
Whereas millions of middle class jobs can be created by rais- ing labor standards through project labor agreements and protecting and expanding the right of workers to organize so that workers in the United States and the commu- nities of those workers are guaranteed a strong, viable economic future in a zero-emissions economy that guar- antees good jobs at fair union wages, with quality bene- fits;
Whereas frontline communities, Tribal governments and com- munities, people of color, and labor unions must be equi-
KAT19098 S.L.C. 8
tably and actively engaged in the climate mobilization and prioritized through local climate mitigation and ad- aptation planning, policy, and program delivery so that workers in the United States, the communities of those workers, are guaranteed a strong, viable economic future;
Whereas a number of local jurisdictions and governments in the United States, including New York City and Los An- geles, and across the world, including the United King- dom, the Republic of Ireland, Portugal, and Canada, have already declared a climate emergency, and a number of State and local governments are considering declaring a climate emergency in response to the massive chal- lenges posed by the climate crisis;
Whereas State, local, and Tribal governments must be sup- ported in efforts to hold to account actors whose activi- ties have deepened and accelerated the climate crisis and who have benefitted from delayed action to address the climate change emergency and to develop a fossil fuel-free economy;
Whereas a collaborative response to the climate crisis will re- quire the Federal Government to work with international, State, and local governments, including with those gov- ernments that have declared a climate emergency, to re- verse the impacts of the climate crisis; and
Whereas the United States has an obligation, as a driver of accelerated climate change, to mobilize at emergency speed to restore a safe climate and environment not just for communities of the United States, including terri- tories, but for communities across the world, particularly those on the frontlines of the climate crisis who have least contributed to the crisis, and to account for global
KAT19098 S.L.C. 9
and community impacts of any actions it takes in re- sponse to the climate crisis: Now, therefore, be it
- 1 Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives
- 2 concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that—
- 3 (1) the global warming caused by human activi-
- 4 ties, which increase emissions of greenhouse gases,
- 5 has resulted in a climate emergency that—
- 6 (A) severely and urgently impacts the eco-
- 7 nomic and social well-being, health and safety,
- 8 and national security of the United States; and
- 9 (B) demands a national, social, industrial,
- 10 and economic mobilization of the resources and
- 11 labor of the United States at a massive-scale to
- 12 halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the con-
- 13 sequences of the climate emergency and to re-
- 14 store the climate for future generations; and
- 15 (2) nothing in this concurrent resolution con-
- 16 stitutes a declaration of a national emergency for
- 17 purposes of any Act of Congress authorizing the ex-
- 18 ercise, during the period of a national emergency or
- 19 other type of declared emergency, of any special or
- 20 extraordinary power.