by Jake Johnson
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.”
The 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.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, expressed her support for the emergency declaration in a tweet on Tuesday.
“We should call our climate crisis what it is: an emergency,” Warren wrote. “That’s why I support a climate emergency resolution, a Green New Deal, protecting our public lands and coasts from drilling, and other big, bold actions to tackle it.”
In addition to Warren, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and 19 members of the House co-sponsored the climate emergency declaration, according to Sanders’s office.
The resolution comes just hours after President Donald Trump delivered a speech touting his “environmental leadership,” which critics said was full of distortions and “outright lies.” The president did not once mention the climate crisis in his address.
Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Tuesday that, “With an unhinged climate denier in the White House, it’s on Congress to steer us away from climate suicide.”
“Mounting a World War II-style mobilization against the climate emergency will have lifesaving and economic benefits that far exceed its costs,” Snape said. “Responding to the climate crisis with any less urgency would spell disaster for current and future Americans, and for the planet.”
As of this writing, over 740 local governments and four nations have declared a climate emergency.
Mitch Jones, Climate and Energy Program director at Food & Water Watch, applauded Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and Blumenauer for leading the push for a climate emergency declaration and said it is “past time” for the government to treat the crisis with the urgency it deserves.
“We need bold, comprehensive legislation to move us off fossil fuels and onto a clean energy revolution,” Jones said. “This resolution lays out the scope of what we need to do. It’s time to act for the future of our planet.”
Jake Johnson, staff writer with CommonDreams.org.
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