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What Would Happen if Climate Change is Declared a National Emergency?

Why is Biden being pressured to declare climate change as a national emergency, and would it really curb emissions or natural disasters?
Green News
2023-08-25T00:00:00.000Z
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Climate change has been a serious problem for a while now, but with the wildfire smoke soaring through the U.S. after the Canadian wildfires, dwindling air quality across the East Coast this past summer, and the horrific wildfires in Maui – many Americans are beginning to insist that Biden declares climate change as a national emergency.

👉 What would declaring climate change as a national emergency do, how likely is Biden to do it, and what effect would it really have on the country’s carbon footprint and current natural disasters?

Why is Biden receiving pressure to declare climate change as a national emergency?

After one crisis induced by climate change after another, many Americans have finally had enough – with many advocates now pressuring Biden to declare climate change as a national emergency.

Much of this pressure comes after multiple climate-change related incidents and disasters after another – with deadly wildfires, floods, droughts, bizarre weather patterns in California, an increase in bugs, the planet having its hottest day on record, and new vulnerability to power grids alongside these increasing temperatures.

In fact, the U.S. has already had 23 "billion dollar disasters" this year alone – depleting the U.S. of a whopping $58 billion in disaster repairs, recoveries, and even reparations – with natural disasters this year alone claiming 253 lives.

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Activists are pushing for Biden to declare an official national emergency, believing that more needs to be done despite Biden’s previous efforts to rectify climate change. 

What is Biden’s policy on climate change?

Biden has previously said that the biggest threat to human existence is climate change, which was a large part of his campaign for presidency alongside vice president Kamala Harris – where they both advocated to implement policies to fight against climate change and reduce emissions in the country once and for all.

On some fronts, Biden has held up to his promise – passing a revolutionary climate bill (better known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022) last summer that allocated a whopping $369 billion towards the transition to the use of clean energy by enticing Americans with a tax incentive for those who pick the more energy efficient option when shopping – such as by choosing an electric car over a gasoline powered one.

The Biden administration has also helped to protect forests in the country, most notably with the Tongass National Forest – as Biden repealed the Roadless Rule in order to prevent the state of Alaska from turning much of it into a commercial resort. As a result, the wildlife in the Tongass National Forest will be protected, biodiversity will be supported, and the vast amount of trees can help to absorb excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Most notably, Biden made sure to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement after Trump infamously withdrew the country from the well-known climate treaty – a prime selling point that Biden used during his campaign to demonstrate his dedication towards environmental reform. 

However, many are beginning to wonder if Biden has been as climate-forward as he promised he initially promised to be.

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Why are Americans losing confidence in Biden’s stance on climate change?

During his campaign, Biden promised to reduce oil and gas drilling – something that Biden hasn’t satisfied many of his supporters with. 

For example, Biden approved of the Conocophillips’ Willow Project – an oil drilling project set to take place in the North Slope of Alaska, which has left many confused on where Biden really stands when it comes to climate change. In fact, Biden has approved of more oil drilling projects in his presidency than Trump did during his term. 

Still, Biden has remained adamant towards his commitment to climate change – stating that he has, “practically” declared climate change as a national emergency – angering many pressuring him to declare it an official emergency, which he has not.

Many advocates pressured Biden to declare it as a national emergency, calling Biden out on the operative word, “practically” – as they have pointed out Biden’s continued agency to partake in oil drilling projects.

In addition to this, as debates for the 2024 presidential election begin – climate change will be the subject of many of these debates, and Biden may be left to further scrutiny for the oil projects he has approved of while in office. For many, the only hope left for Biden to prove his loyalty to rectifying global warming would be to declare climate change as a national emergency while he is still serving his term as president. 

How would declaring a national emergency on climate change satisfy these advocates pressuring Biden?

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What could Biden do if he declared climate change as a national emergency?

“Practically” declaring a climate emergency and officially declaring one are two completely different things. 

If Biden is to officially declare climate change as a national emergency, a lot of mitigation efforts could be put into full-swing at full-speed without the need to discuss it with parliament or require further approval.

Think of the president declaring a national emergency like unlocking a super power in a video game. Oftentimes, super powers in video games allow for extra lives, special powers, shortcuts, or the ability to be invincible. This is very similar to the powers granted by the President of the United States when one is to declare a national emergency of any kind.

Declaring a national emergency on climate change would unlock special abilities to be used by Biden – with a long list of climate change reform tactics that could be implemented almost immediately. For example, he could put a ban on crude oil exports, completely suspend offshore oil and gas drilling projects, and even move money from the military to be used for developing new renewable energy projects. 

This isn’t some new, secret super power being brought to everyone’s attention now – the power to declare a national emergency has been an option for presidents ever since the National Emergencies Act of 1976. Even though a national emergency can only last a year, it can always be renewed until climate change would be considered under control.

There would be two major expectations on behalf of Biden if he were to declare an official climate emergency. 

One would be to use his new capabilities to make use of the Defense Production Act, which could accelerate the production of clean energy technologies and implement them throughout the country at the quicker pace it desperately needs. This is the same thing that Trump did during the pandemic in order to ensure vaccines would be made fast enough to deter the pandemic from spreading further. 

Second, he would be expected to pass more direct bills or pieces of climate legislation to make progress – as some victims of these climate crises, such as those in Hawaii, will not benefit from the green incentives expressed in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

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Despite the fact that Biden has allocated over $8 million to help Hawaiins address the immediate needs following the wildfires, many are adamant that more should be done – and to some degree, they aren’t wrong. A $700 check to someone who has just lost their home isn't going to prevent another wildfire in the future.

Many remain hopeful that following Biden’s visit to Maui, that seeing the damage the wildfires have caused with his own eyes will elicit a change of heart to declare a climate emergency.

👉 If climate change is declared as a national emergency, then it would make reducing emissions and protecting the environment the country’s number one priority – at least for the short term until the situation improves.

Biden has the complete power to declare climate change as a national emergency and do all of the above, and yet he hasn’t – what could be stopping him?

What is keeping Biden from declaring a national emergency on climate change?

This question is still yet to be answered, and is unlikely to be answered by Biden himself following his previous and most recent answer that he has already “practically declared” climate change as a national emergency. One can only theorise, but there are a few reasons why Biden may be hesitant to declare an official emergency on climate change.

A big reason for Biden not to declare an official emergency may have to do with the upcoming 2024 presidential election.

While declaring such an emergency would satisfy younger generations and environmental activists, it may dishearten other people that Biden is hoping to win a vote from. It’s logical that the president may be trying to play it safe, especially as headlines are already flooded with Trump’s recent indictment – and to avoid any massive press that could intensify the current Republican GOP debates. In short, it’s best to avoid extreme measures of any kind as the debates begin – and it could make sense that Biden wants to avoid a drastic divide on this subject matter.

Many avenues that Biden has focused on throughout this presidency may be overlooked in the long run, as declaring a national emergency may show that he only cares about climate change and not the other controversial issues in the country: such as healthcare, gun violence, and abortion. This is because declaring a national emergency on climate change would insinuate that funding for these other issues in the country would be depleted and even ignored in the immediate future.

Maybe it's for semantics, but those semantics could potentially cost Biden his re-election. 

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Would a national emergency really curb the country’s emissions?

The U.S. is currently the second highest emitting country in the world behind China when it comes to emitting greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s fair to wonder – would declaring a national emergency really curb a problem the country has been facing for a long time?

The truth is declaring a national emergency on climate change wouldn’t curb the country’s emissions right away – but it would be a solid start. The best comparison is to compare a national emergency on climate change to the national emergency with the Covid-pandemic – things did not get better for several months, but the country was able to turn things around quicker than if an emergency hadn’t been declared. 

All eyes are on Biden to see if he declares climate change a national emergency, something the country is in dire need of, but with his term coming to a close and re-elections around the corner – those hopeful might be crossing their fingers and toes for quite some time.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about what would happen if Biden declares climate change as a national emergency has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Biden would be up for a challenge with climate change declared as a national emergency, just as companies like yours are probably every day, but don’t worry  – Greenly is here to help. Click here to schedule a demo to see how Greenly can help you comply with all of the upcoming regulations relevant to your company. 

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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