Why Climate Change Is a National Emergency

Marco Rubio has pushed back against President Trump’s threat to demand border wall funding by declaring a national emergency. The Republican senator’s concern, however, is not human rights or fiscal responsibility.

Instead, Rubio has warned that such an act could set a precedent, opening the door for a Democratic president — maybe even a Democratic Socialist, oh my! — to declare climate change a national emergency.

There’s just one problem with his comparison: Anyone with a basic grasp of the scientific and political realities of climate change understands that it actually is a national emergency.

Let’s explore the reasons why:

Natural Disasters Are Already Recognized as Emergencies

Looking at 2018 as a whole, one of the major shifts in public, political and media conversations about climate change is that scientists have become comfortable stating that specific disasters are caused by climate change. The much higher frequency and severity of extreme weather events like hurricanes — not to mention wildfires, drought, changed seasonal rhythms and more – is no longer within the realm of “maybe it would have happened anyway”.

 

After all, climate change clearly played a role in recent disasters and national emergencies like Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Michael and California’s wildfires.

Climate Change Is a Growing Threat That Requires Intervention

What is an emergency, anyway? One dictionary definition is “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.” The “unexpected” part applies mostly to the willfully ignorant, but this pretty much covers it.

Synonyms and related words for “emergency” include “urgent” and “extreme.” As the most grave threat our species has ever faced, climate change definitely falls under the category of extreme danger.

The human cost is extreme. The economic cost is extreme. And there aren’t really any historical examples that compare to a danger with the power to completely destroy human civilization. We simply can’t wait to act.

And that last bit, “requiring immediate action,” implies an additional salient point: Climate change is solvable.

Dying of old age is inevitable, so we don’t declare it an emergency requiring immediate action. And this makes sense, given that there’s no solution at hand that can be immediately deployed. But solutions for climate change exist; they just need to be enacted.

Declaring an Emergency Is a Legal Option for Forcing “Step Up or Step Aside”

Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal slogan is catchy, but can the plan become a reality?

In 2020 a new president may be elected. This individual will have the executive power to divert money and immediately deal with a national emergency without going through Congress. This presents one way to take meaningful action on climate change without partisan obstructionism getting in the way.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the ideal solution, and long-term legislative approaches are sorely needed. But the use of the president’s emergency powers to pilot climate action might be just the thing to get the ball rolling. Any obstructionists in the House or Senate will be forced to play catch up and get involved in the solution — or be left behind.

We’ve got to begin moving forward — and quickly — because climate change presents a true emergency.

Photo Credit: European Greens/Flickr

70 comments

Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan H6 days ago

global emergency

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Chad Anderson
Chad A13 days ago

Thank you.

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JinnySITEISSUES L

The emergency is also for humans to do their part to help curb climate change. We are purchasing more gas guzzling vehicles, we still rely on plastic bags (convenience - too much to bring a reusable bag when purchasing groceries, etc.), removing trees to make you property look more like a Trump golf course, etc., etc. For the sake of this earth and all species that live on it...We humans desperately need to change our ways.....It's a matter of life and death...and that indeed is a national emergency. Thanks for sharing.

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salah zoubiri
salah zoubiri13 days ago

Remain calm and plant trees 💚💚💚💚💚#ecosia

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salah zoubiri
salah zoubiri13 days ago

Shared

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salah zoubiri
salah zoubiri13 days ago

Ty all for sharing your thoughts

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salah zoubiri
salah zoubiri13 days ago

Tya

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salah zoubiri
salah zoubiri13 days ago

Great comments

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heather g
heather g13 days ago

Darcia Hurst - You put it perfectly - that is how I fee; as well and especially in North America

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O13 days ago

ok

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