(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Tuesday joined Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) launching a legislative measure in both chambers to symbolically declare a “climate emergency.”
The initiative comes against the backdrop of a global movement to get governments at local and national levels to declare a climate “emergency,” as activists seeking to ratchet up concern and accelerate action move away from tamer terms such as “climate change.”
The concurrent resolution expresses “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.”
It states that “global warming caused by human activities, which increase emissions of greenhouse gases, has resulted in a climate emergency.”
The situation demands a “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States,” so as “to restore the climate for future generations.”
The Senate resolution is co-sponsored by five of the other six Democratic senators running for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination – Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.). Another co-sponsor is Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley.
A statement issued by Sanders’ office said the initiative “stands in sharp contrast to President Trump’s recent misuse of emergency declarations, manufactured in order to seize funds that Congress refused to appropriate to build a wall on the border with Mexico and to sell Saudi Arabia weapons that Congress had blocked. Climate change, an actual emergency, has been described by Trump as a ‘hoax.’”
“Climate change is a national emergency, and I am proud to be introducing this resolution with my House and Senate colleagues,” said Sanders.
“To address the climate crisis, we must tell the truth about the nature of this threat,” said Blumenauer. “Congressional Republicans have teetered on the brink of ignorance for far too long and now urgent, massive action is needed. This is an emergency. We must act now.”
“Green New Deal” advocate Ocasio-Cortez said the lawmakers were standing “in solidarity with tens of millions of people from around the world in calling for a mass mobilization of our social and economic resources.”
‘Rescue and rebuild civilization’
Widespread use of the term “climate emergency” is a relatively recent phenomenon in the global warming debate.
In a Nexis search of press reports going back decades an early use of the term appeared in a Calgary Herald report in Oct. 1997, with Louise Comeau of the Sierra Club of Canada quoted as saying, “We are facing a climate emergency and no one sees the flashing light.”
Nexis records relatively few uses of the term before early 2018, when usage rocketed.
Two months ago Britain’s left-leaning Guardian announced it had updated its style guide, and that preferred terms for what used to be called “climate change” were now “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” while “global warming” has given way to “global heating.”
The phrase “climate change,” said the paper’s editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, “sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”
Among those credited with popularizing the term are teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who is planning another “climate action summit” in New York in September, has also used the word “emergency” to describe the climate change situation.
The first jurisdiction known to have declared a “climate emergency” was the left-wing local government of a city on the edge of Melbourne, Australia, in December 2016.
Hoboken, New Jersey is reported to have become the first city in the U.S. to do so, in November 2017.
Today, according to International Climate Emergency Forum (ICEF) data, they have been joined by more than 700 local authorities in 16 countries – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. In the U.S., 19 cities are onboard, 14 of them in California.
Among the biggest jurisdictions to have done so are the Irish, Portuguese, Canadian and (in a non-binding resolution) British national parliaments, along with New York City and Greater London.
The Climate Mobilization (TCM) says the goal of the campaign is “to compel governments, starting at the local level and building upward, to adopt an emergency response to climate change and the broader ecological crisis.”
“Entering emergency mode is the critical first step to launching the comprehensive mobilization required to rescue and rebuild civilization.”
It lists among strategic priorities for local campaigns the passage of climate emergency declarations “with commitment to reach zero emissions and begin carbon drawdown at emergency speed (10 years or less).”
TCM says it “played an advisory role” in the resolution announced on Tuesday.
Once the measure has been officially introduced, it said in a statement, “TCM will mobilize a national climate emergency coalition to get the declaration passed through the House and to recruit all of the 2020 presidential candidates to publicly declare a climate emergency.”
TCM says Ocasio-Cortez signed its “Pledge to Mobilize” even before her primary victory last year.
The pledge calls on the U.S. government to “commence a World War II-scale mobilization to restore a safe climate,” “end all greenhouse gas emissions within a decade,” and “enlist the American people in a just mobilization that rebuilds our democracy and ensures good jobs, healthcare, and dignity for all.”