On Tuesday, Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, along with New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, discussed plans to introduce a resolution to Congress that would declare a climate emergency in the United States—urging lawmakers to, as Blumenaer tweeted, address "the truth about the climate crisis and the urgent, massive action needed to address it."
"Congress needs to understand this is an emergency and act like it," Blumenauer said on a conference call with reporters. Blumenauer spoke alongside Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders to outline the resolution, which is intended to bring attention to what Sanders called an "existential threat to our planet."
"The national emergency is not the border, it's the climate," said Blumenauer, noting that in the Pacific Northwest, "we're already seeing the disastrous impacts" of climate change, like "record-setting droughts in Oregon [that are] devastating farms and intensifying wildfires."
Blumenauer pointed to actions that could be taken immediately—fighting oil drilling in the Arctic, requiring more fracking regulations, and preventing public lands from exploitation by the fossil fuel industry—and said that many already have Americans' approval.
Such moves, however, are faced with roadblocks from both Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. On Monday, Trump lied repeatedly about his administration's environmental stewardship.
"These are things that are supported by the American public now," Blumenauer said, "and under the impetus of a national emergency, we can move forward to take these steps."
"Under the impetus of a national emergency, we can move forward to take these steps." —Rep. Earl Blumenauer
While notable, the concurrent resolution is a symbolic statement more than anything else: Even if adopted, it will not require the approval of the president and won't have the force of law. It would, however, serve as a kind of proof—along with the proposed, non-binding Green New Deal—that some in Congress are at least attempting to address climate change. The issue is expected to be a major discussion point in the 2020 election.
"We cannot begin to have these conversations until we declare a climate emergency," said Ocasio-Cortez, who also signaled her openness to using other methods to minimize climate change, such as financially constraining the fossil fuel industry.
"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 couldn't be further from the truth," she said, calling the lack of meaningful government movement on the issue "a political crisis of inaction."
"We have less than 12 years for us to fully enact a global solution that will draw down carbon in a way that will preserve our way of life," Ocasio-Cortez added, alluding to a 2018 report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in which climate scientists warned that humanity has only a dozen years to prevent the worst effects of climate change—effects that include food scarcity; more extreme weather events; an increased number of heat-related deaths; flooded coasts; and a rise in climate-related poverty, immigration, and war.
That warning was, for all practical intents and purposes, ignored by most world leaders.
"We have less than 12 years for us to fully enact a global solution that will draw down carbon in a way that will preserve our way of life." —Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Sanders, who is currently in his second campaign for the presidency, stressed the need for new American leadership.
"This is a moral imperative. There is no choice," said Sanders. "We are going to have to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry and the ignorance of Donald Trump and transform our energy system in a very bold way."
That transformation, he said, cannot be limited to America.
"It is a global issue, and what we need is American leadership demanding that countries all over the world work together to transform our energy system," Sanders said, going on to call out "Russia, India, [and] China" as nations whose contributions to fighting climate change would be as important as America's.
Blumenauer and Ocasio-Cortez were more focused on domestic policy, noting the concurrent resolution is intended to work hand-in-hand with the Green New Deal, sponsored by Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey. In March, that ambitious resolution failed to advance after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forced a bullshit vote.
"We need to act boldly, and the Green New Deal is that framework," said Blumenauer. Ocasio-Cortez noted that the plans set forth in that resolution, in addition to helping fight climate change, would also create an "enormous amount of economic stimulus and jobs in the process."