AOC and Bernie Are Teaming Up to Get Biden to Declare Climate Change a National Emergency

“We are in the midst of a climate emergency. It is time for the United States to act like it.”
February 4, 2021, 5:57pm
In this Feb. 10, 2020 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. wave to supporters at campaign stop at Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N
In this Feb. 10, 2020 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. wave to supporters at campaign stop at Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/File, Andrew Harnik),

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AOC and Bernie Sanders are teaming up to declare the climate crisis a national emergency—but the only person who can make that happen is President Joe Biden. 

The National Climate Emergency Act of 2021, introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Sanders, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, would require the president to enact a state of national emergency, which would give him more power to direct resources and money to reverse the effects of the climate crisis. Experts say that’s still possible—although the world is getting dangerously close to a “point of no return.” 

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The new legislation cites the last decade as being the hottest in human history, caused by a record number of pollutants like the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emitted into the earth’s atmosphere. But if people and companies reduce their emissions, Earth’s temperature would stabilize and eventually decline. 

To do that, the legislation calls for reinvesting resources to clean energy sectors and aiding historically underrepresented communities, which are generally hit first and hardest by climate change. 

“We are in the midst of a climate emergency. It is time for the United States to act like it,” Blumenauer wrote in a tweet Thursday morning.

The bill asks President Biden to:

  • Declare a national emergency to grant added power in addressing the climate crisis
  • Expand infrastructure that promotes access to renewable energy, transportation, water, and other public systems
  • Modernize structures with outdated infrastructure to mitigate pollution 
  • Invest in public health to prepare for extreme climate events
  • Restore natural wildlife areas and public lands, which contribute naturally to a healthier climate 
  • Invest in agricultural programs that aid rural farmers and communities 
  • Develop and transform the industrial sector by creating more domestic jobs and focusing on boosting manufacturing efforts in clean technology 
  • Invest in a clean energy economy that protects, boosts, and focuses on historically disadvantaged communities, like those of Black, Indigenous, and people of color; small-businesses owners, union members, and more. 

During former President Trump’s four years in office, massive deregulation efforts led to more oil and gas extraction from wild areas and increased greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing operations centered around coal and other harmful substances. On Day One in office, Biden started undoing that harmful legacy, first by rejoining the Paris Accord. The National Emergency Act would encourage Biden to continue, especially by protecting public lands. 

AOC has previously asked her party to throw its weight behind her massive reform bill the Green New Deal, which outlines specific goals for reversing the effects of the climate crisis within 10 years. But that’s still unlikely even with Biden as president. She and the other supporters of the National Climate Emergency Act hope Biden will take the first step to push back against the climate crisis. 

AOC and Sanders had introduced a similar bill to force Congress to declare the climate crisis a national emergency in 2019, but the House never voted on it, according to Grist.