A view of Phoenix, Arizona, during a heatwave.

The city skyline and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are seen from the Hole In The Rock trail during a record heat wave in Phoenix, Arizona, on July 19, 2023.

(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Call on US Leaders to Declare a Climate Emergency

As the nation bakes, it is imperative that President Joe Biden take this action to mobilize powers, resources, and tools not currently available to him that could challenge Republican obstruction.

Is Phoenix Ameria’s first unlivable city? Will this be the year America and the world wakes up?

CBS News is reporting that people in Phoenix are rationing their air conditioning; a British climatologist has declared it the developed world’s first “uninhabitable city without air conditioning.”

In large parts of the United States this summer, climate change-driven heat domes are making pavement so hot that when people pass out and come in contact with it they end up in the hospital with second- and third-degree burns. Multiple hospitals report that their burn units are near capacity.

Dr. Kevin Foster, the director of the Arizona Burn Center, told the CBC:

“We are seeing lots of patients who are falling down onto the concrete, pavement, asphalt, and suffering really, really deep burns as a result of that.” He added that this frequency and severity of burns is “twice the normal that we typically see.”

NBC news reported:

“The burns typically occur when people fall or pass out on sun-scorched pavement and other hot surfaces. During intense heatwaves, as has been unfolding across the Southwest, even being in contact with these surfaces for short periods of time can do serious damage, said Dr. Kara Geren, an emergency medicine physician at Valleywise Health in Phoenix.

“‘The burns can be very severe and disfiguring to the point where you have to have what’s called a skin graft, where they take skin from other parts of your body and kind of cover it up,’ she said.”

In 2021, 40% of Americans lived in a county severely impacted by our current climate emergency, and over 600 Americans died from climate-related causes. In 2022, climate change-related weather disasters cost the United States over $165 billion, according to NOAA.

This year will be the worst in human history, as El Niño drives a massive summer heatwave all across the Northern Hemisphere. The United Nations estimates that climate-related deaths will exceed cancer deaths in our children’s lifetimes. We stand on the precipice of a disaster unlike any that humanity has ever encountered.

The United Nations estimates that climate-related deaths will exceed cancer deaths in our children’s lifetimes. We stand on the precipice of a disaster unlike any that humanity has ever encountered.

And a small group of fossil fuel billionaires and coal barons are getting fabulously rich from humanity’s misery while actively working to block solutions. They’re using small parts of that revenue, with the blessing of five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court, to pay off Republican politicians (and a handful of Democrats) to block any efforts to solve this crisis.

Which makes it imperative that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency to mobilize powers, resources, and tools not currently available to him that could challenge their obstruction. These include the National Emergencies Act, the Defense Production Act, and the Robert T Stafford Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

In 2019, the Center for Biological Diversity published a legal analysis summarizing the powers available to the president were he to declare a climate emergency. They include:

— Ban new fossil fuel leasing.
— Ban new fracking permits.
— Establish a plan to phase out fossil fuel production.
— Reallocate hundreds of billions of dollars currently subsidizing fossil fuel production toward the deployment of green energy.
— Cap domestic fossil fuel emissions.
— End the export of crude oil, coal, and refined fossil fuel products.

They further suggest that the president veto any legislation that provides immunity from lawsuits to the fossil fuel industry (the GOP is working on this), and begin a comprehensive and systematic investigation into the fossil fuel industry’s cover-up of science they’ve known and concealed for decades about the planet-destroying consequences of their products.

When America entered World War II, we shifted large portions of America’s industrial infrastructure toward the production of war material. Factories that once made cars began to manufacture tanks and airplanes; industrial facilities producing clothing or nylon stockings turned out millions of uniforms and parachutes. Food, fuel, and even tires were rationed to provide for the war effort.

This was largely done by President Franklin D. Roosevelt using his wartime emergency powers, and, the Center for Biological Diversity argues, using peacetime emergency powers today President Biden could put America on a similarly consequential course to be free of most fossil fuel pollution within a decade.

Not only would this have a major impact on climate change because America is one of the planet’s two largest polluters, but it would also set an example for the world to follow.

President Biden considered declaring such an emergency last year, but stepped back from it. As Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement told Bloomberg:

“New York City looks like it’s on fire, kids are choking on dirty air, and the AQI is a serious health threat equivalent to breathing in smoke from cigarettes. We are in a climate emergency, and it’s absurd that our government isn’t acting like it.”

Republicans are fully aware of this potential, which is why they just introduced legislation to block President Biden from declaring just such an emergency.

Cynically, they’ve named their bill the Real Emergencies Act. (You’ll recall that just last week Republican Congressman Scott Perry called climate change a “grift.”)

As Julia Rock notes at The Lever:

“The Real Emergencies Act’s seven sponsors in the Senate received a combined $3.1 million in contributions from fossil fuel industry executives and political action committees (PACs) over the 2017-2022 cycle, according to data from OpenSecrets. The bill’s 19 House sponsors raked in $1.7 million from fossil fuel executives and PACs during the 2021-2022 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.”

One of the great tragedies of Clarence Thomas casting the deciding vote in Citizens United is that today the cost of bribing politicians represents only a tiny fraction of the profits industry can receive when those politicians do what they are asked.

Invest a few million dollars, make hundreds of billions. The fossil fuel barons succeeded in buying so much of the GOP that it’s almost impossible to find any Republican elected official who will even acknowledge climate change, much less is willing to do anything serious about it.

With Democratic control of the Senate intact, however, this corrupt attempt by these Republicans (the Real Emergencies Act) to prevent President Biden from saving the lives of Americans will not become law.

But just stopping Republican obstruction isn’t enough: We need real and consequential action now.

This past week over 100 million Americans were subjected to deadly levels of heat, and, because warmer air holds more moisture and more energy, the storms and floods unleashed on America have been unprecedented in both their frequency, volume, and violence.

And it’s going to get worse. A lot worse.

This truly is a climate emergency, and every day that goes by without significant action further endangers the future of almost all life on Earth, including us.

Reach out to your elected officials and ask them to demand that President Biden declare a climate emergency and take action now.

The bought-and-paid-for Republican shills for the fossil fuel industry in Congress will react with hysterical squeals and threats of congressional action. Their threats, however, are hollow. Now is the time for action.

As Senator Jeff Merkley toldThe Washington Post:

“This is a planetary emergency, and the president should declare an emergency. It is the biggest issue facing humankind. We are on a trajectory for a massive increase in climate chaos, affecting us in every possible way.”

One of the best ways to lobby the president is through Democratic members of the House and Senate. The message to President Biden has to be: “You have the power to do this: You must use it.”

The number for the congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121. Most members of Congress also allow constituents to email them through their websites, which you can easily find with a quick web search.

Take a few minutes today and make the call. The fate of our planet, our fellow humans, and future generations is hanging in the balance.

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© 2023 Thom Hartmann