By MYAH WARD
As President Joe Biden prepares to visit Maui, the Hawaiian island devastated by the deadliest wildfire in U.S. modern history, lawmakers and climate groups are begging the White House to do more to prevent future climate-related disasters.
Their argument: If the latest environmental catastrophe won’t spur the president into action, what will?
The fires, likely sparked by the island’s electric utility and heightened by climate change impacts, swept through the Pacific paradise last week, killing at least 110 people and leaving the famed town of Lahaina smoldering in ruins. As survivors search for missing family members and friends, and a housing crisis unfolds amid the vast destruction, climate activists and members of Congress are urging Biden to declare a national emergency over climate change.
It isn’t the first time the White House has faced calls to take this step, but the ongoing crisis in Hawaii and a string of climate events this summer — including this weekend’s first-ever tropical storm warning for southern California — have intensified the appeals, building pressure on the president ahead of his scheduled trip to the island disaster site Monday.
“Even when I talk about this issue, I tend to say things like, ‘I want to make sure my children have clean air and water — that they have running water. That they have a livable planet when they’re my age.’ But that’s not right. Tomorrow, you could wake up and your whole community could be ashes,” said Kaniela Ing, a seventh-generation indigenous Hawaiian from Maui and the national director of the Green New Deal Network, a climate justice organization.
“That’s the urgency we’re operating under,” he added, “so if there was ever a moment to declare a climate emergency, it is right now.”
Alongside climate groups, many of Biden’s allies in Congress have urged him to invoke emergency powers, which would enable the president to take sweeping action to restrain greenhouse gas production, implement large-scale clean transportation solutions and finance distributed energy projects, among other actions.
“The devastation in Maui is a clear sign that the president must declare a climate emergency — now. While FEMA is providing resources to the local heroes on the ground fighting for the lives and livelihoods of Hawaiians, the underlying climate-driven conditions of drought, extreme heat, environmental injustice, and non-resilient infrastructure will remain,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement to POLITICO.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who has long called on Biden to take this step, said that if the devastation in Hawaii isn’t a national emergency, “what is?”
“I refuse to accept that people choosing between burning alive or jumping into the ocean for hours on end is our new normal. This is a crisis and we need to treat it that way. That starts with President Biden declaring a national climate emergency to unlock vast federal resources and emergency powers to help our communities prepare for and recover from these deadly climate disasters,” he added.
Declaring a climate emergency could come with political risks for an incumbent president heading into an election year, potentially spurring a spike in already high gas prices. Plus, any executive action Biden takes would likely face legal challenges, including going up against a conservative Supreme Court that has already ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the broad authority to rein in carbon pollution.
Still, advocates and lawmakers are pushing the president to be bold amid the latest crisis, arguing that the move would also reap political benefits among disillusioned young voters, as well as communities of color who have been disproportionately harmed by the effects of climate change.
She also pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act’s investment in combating climate change, which the White House celebrated last week on the legislation’s one-year anniversary.
Many of Biden’s allies in Congress have urged him to invoke emergency powers, which would enable the president to take sweeping action to restrain greenhouse gas production, implement large-scale clean transportation solutions and finance distributed energy projects, among other actions. …
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.): “The devastation in Maui is a clear sign that the president must declare a climate emergency — now.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.): “This is a crisis and we need to treat it that way. That starts with President Biden declaring a national climate emergency to unlock vast federal resources and emergency powers to help our communities prepare for and recover from these deadly climate disasters.”
National director of the Green New Deal Network: “If there was ever a moment to declare a climate emergency, it is right now.”
Climate Depot’s Morano: ”The Biden administration believes that when democracy fails to achieve its climate goals, it’s time to bypass democracy and Congress and follow the COVID model. Climate activists have lusted after the COVID lockdowns as the model for climate lockdowns. The plan is to declare a ‘climate emergency,’ toss out elected representatives and follow China’s one-party rule model by implementing energy restrictions through the bureaucracy. They don’t need no stinkin’ democracy. Throughout history,emergency declarations have been used and abused to crush freedom.For those who loved how unelected officials ruled our lives under COVID lockdowns, prepare for the attempts to make climate lockdowns permanent. For an idea of what the world would look like under a climate lockdown.”” See:2021 International Energy Agency’s ‘Net-Zero’ report urges, “behavioral changes’ to fight climate: A shift away from private car use‚ upper speed limits’ & thermostat controls; limits on hot water and more!