“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,” reads the title of a concurrent resolution sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon).
The resolution stands as a partner piece with the Green New Deal (GND) legislation sponsored by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) in March 2019. While the GND recognizes the immediate threat of climate disruption, its purpose is to offer a variety of avenues to effectively address that threat. This new legislation, however, strives to explain in the starkest terms the nature of the threat itself:
Whereas current climate science and real-world observations of climate change impacts, ocean warming and acidification, floods, droughts, wildfires, and extreme weather demonstrate that a global rise in temperatures of 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels is already having dangerous impacts on human populations and the environment;
Whereas climate change holds grave and immediate consequences 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, which are at risk of forced displacement;
Whereas the climatic changes resulting from global warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, including changes resulting from global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, are projected to result in irreversible, catastrophic changes to public health, livelihoods, quality of life, food security, water supplies, human security, and economic growth;
During a Tuesday morning conference call with reporters, Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Blumenauer, joined by Sen. Sanders, underscored the pressing need for Congress to officially recognize the threat posed by climate disruption. “Congress needs to understand that this is an emergency and act on it,” said Rep. Blumenauer.
“The scientific consensus is clear,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, “the solutions are right in front of us.” Beyond the existential threat of climate change, according to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, is the immediate threat posed by “climate delayers and climate deniers” who are paid well to throw sand in the gears of any solution that does not involve fossil fuels. “This is a political crisis,” she emphasized.
Sen. Sanders echoed the sentiments of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. “This is a moral imperative. There is no choice,” he told reporters during the call. “We are going to have to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry and the ignorance of Donald Trump. This is a question of political will.”
“The truth is: We are in danger,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director and co-founder of The Climate Mobilization, one of the organizations that advised on the resolution, in a prepared statement. “You, me, my family, your family. All of us. Global warming is accelerating, and will cause the collapse of civilization this century if we fail to transform our society to zero emissions and initiate drawdown, in years, not decades.”
The Climate Mobilization, founded in 2014, stands at the forefront of what its members describe as the “Climate Emergency Movement.” In 2016, their alliance with Sen. Sanders during his presidential campaign brought the dangers of climate disruption forcefully into the mainstream. By July of that year, their efforts led the Democratic Party to add the need for “a World War II-type national mobilization” to its presidential platform.
“The headline of the century is that uncontrolled global warming and environmental destruction could cause the collapse of the global economy and human civilization, the death of billions of innocent people, the annihilation of much of life on Earth, and in the worst-case scenario, a runaway greenhouse effect that renders the planet mostly uninhabitable,” said Ezra Silk, strategy director and fellow co-founder of The Climate Mobilization. “The official narrative around climate change and the environment has buried this story.”
The “ignorance of Donald Trump” was on full display this past Monday, when he had the towering gall to stand before the press and defend his atrocious environmental record. “We want the cleanest air, we want crystal clear water,” said Trump. “And that’s what we’re doing. These are incredible goals that everyone in this country can rally behind, and they are rallying behind.”
“Mr. Trump called himself a protector of public land,” reported The New York Times, “but he has taken unprecedented steps to open up public lands to drilling, including signing off on the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history, and lifting an Obama-era moratorium on new coal mining leases on public lands. He repeatedly cited his desire for clear water, but the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of rolling back an Obama-era clean-water regulation of pollution in streams and wetlands.”
“President Trump has routinely declared phony national emergencies to advance his deeply unpopular agenda, like selling Saudi Arabia bombs that Congress had blocked,” reads a statement from Sen. Sanders’ office. “We are facing a climate emergency that requires a massive and immediate federal mobilization.”
Indeed, leaders like Trump lie at the core of a danger that, to a significant extent, has already grown beyond humanity’s ability to contain. “Most of the political left in the U.S. continues to talk about this as though it was in the future,” says Truthout climate reporter Dahr Jamail. “Dozens of feedback loops have already kicked in, many scientists believe we already have 3C baked into the system if we ceased all CO2 emissions on a dime today, and it won’t be another decade until we begin to see the impacts of the last 10 years of CO2 emissions alone.”
This concurrent resolution drafted by Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders and Blumenauer regarding the present emergency of climate disruption comes as Washington, D.C., is recovering from historic flash flooding, which struck the region at the beginning of the week, and as farmers in the Midwest endure prolonged and historic flooding which has imperiled much of this year’s crop. Conservative climate change estimates promise more of the same in the years to come. More accurate assessments paint a far more bleak and immediate picture.
As Dahr Jamail correctly points out, however, the horse is already far out of the barn. Leaving aside the unavoidable fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) would sooner use the Capitol Dome as a suppository than allow legislation like this to become law, there is the hard truth that climate disruption is here, now.
This resolution is fine as far as political chess pieces go, and even better if a way could be found to make it law. As matters stand today, however, this will almost certainly join the Green New Deal in the pile of vital policy ideas left to rot by a feckless president, an actively malicious Senate majority leader, and the polluters who sustain their political careers with blood money.