AOC, Bernie Sanders push for Congress to declare climate emergency
WASHINGTON – First there was the Green New Deal. Now comes the Climate Emergency declaration.
Frustrated with the Trump administration’s continuing push to expand carbon-emitting fossil fuels, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive lawmakers are calling on Congress to declare a “climate emergency,” another largely symbolic effort designed to spur action on global warming.
“This is a moral imperative,” Sanders, I-Vt., a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, told reporters on a phone call Tuesday. “There is no choice. We are going to have to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry and the ignorance of (President) Donald Trump and transform our energy system in a very bold way.”
Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., are introducing a non-binding resolution that would declare a climate emergency that “demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.”
The resolution points out that 20 of the warmest years on record have occurred within the past 22 years, and that the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, including Trump administration researchers, is that the Earth is facing severe threats associated with climate change including more powerful storms, deeper droughts and increasing ocean acidification.
The measure stops short of proposing specific solutions though climate advocates have embraced a plethora of solutions, such as aggressive development of renewable energy, a carbon-pricing model designed to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and technology such as carbon capture.
“This is a political crisis of inaction and it’s going to take political courage in order for us to treat this issue with the urgency that the next generation needs in order for us to preserve our way of life and preserve our planet as much as we possibly can,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The New York Democrat was a lead sponsor of the controversial Green New Deal that has languished in Congress. The measure has become a rallying cry from Republicans who say its broad call for higher wages, universal health care and guaranteed housing smacks of socialism.
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The introduction of the resolution comes a day after the president defended his environmental record amid searing criticism from environmental groups.
Trump, who has mocked the science behind climate change, replaced Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at drastically reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, with a rule that would leave states and utilities much more flexibility to determine such standards.
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And the president is pulling the U.S. from the “unfair, ineffective, and very, very expensive Paris Climate Accord,” the international treaty to combat global warming.
Jeff Eshelman, a spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America which represents smaller oil and gas producers, said the backers of the climate emergency resolution should not be “demonizing” the industry.
“Thanks to increased natural gas production and use, the United States has a reliable, affordable energy supply which has resulted in record-high emission reductions and some of the world’s cleanest air,” he said. “Most nations envy the benefits of these American resources; it’s a shame this group of Democrats does not.”
The resolution might pass the Democrat-controlled House but it’s not expected to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Blumenauer said it must.
“It’s past time,” he told reporters. “Congress needs to understand that this is an emergency and act like it.”