Declaring a National Emergency
In an article saying that a climate emergency exists, John J. Berger wrote: "An emergency has two basic components: it presents a grave threat to life, liberty, property, or the environment, and the situation requires immediate action." When the situation warrants it, an American president has the power to declare a national emergency, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt did in 1941.
"We have a planetary emergency," said James Hansen, pointing out that global warming could destroy civilization. Because the destruction of civilization would involve the destruction of the United States, the planetary emergency is obviously a national emergency. It would seem self-evident, therefore, that the American president should declare the climate emergency to be a national emergency and then act accordingly. In the words of Ban Ki-moon, "This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action."
However, American presidents have authority to declare emergencies only for the United States. And yet the mobilization of this county will not be able to prevent the destruction of civilization apart from the mobilization of other countries. Accordingly, in 2011, Bill McKibben and a large number of other environmental leaders, including Paul Hawken and Lester Brown, wrote a letter to the presidents of the United States and China -- the two countries that "dominate world carbon emissions." McKibben and his colleagues said:
It is time to publicly acknowledge that the continued burning of fossil fuels threatens the survival of civilization. . . . It is with a deepening sense of dread over the fate of future generations that we call on you to acknowledge the severity of the global climate emergency.
A growing number of individuals and organizations have called for the public recognition of this fact.
When U.S. presidents formally declare a national emergency, they have extensive authority to respond to the emergency. Because the climate emergency has been caused by excessive emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, emergency action would be to go full out - at World War II speed - to eliminate such emissions. As one article about this emergency says:
If we do not act now we could push the climate beyond tipping points, where the situation spirals out of our control. . . . Instead of stepping on or easing off the accelerator, we need to be slamming on the brakes.
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