A summer of extreme weather in the United States is coming to a close with a one-two punch of historic disasters: the Maui wildfires, which have displaced thousands, killed more than a hundred, and left more than 800 still missing; and Hilary, the hurricane-turned-tropical storm that is bringing catastrophic flooding to Southern California and the desert southwest. The devastation from both is ongoing, but they carry the same message as the hazardous heat and stinging smoke that filled the skies over the Northeast and Midwest earlier this summer: Climate chaos is here, and urgent action is long overdue.
President Joe Biden has taken a number of steps in the right environmental direction during his first two and a half years in office—including progress on clean energy initiatives. But that’s not enough; Biden should formally declare a climate emergency. “I refuse to accept that people choosing between burning alive and jumping into the ocean for hours on end is our new normal,” as Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer told Politico, referring to Hawaii residents who took refuge in the Pacific as fire tore through their community. “This is a crisis and we need to treat it that way.”
Biden—who visits Hawaii Monday amid criticism of his muted response to one of the deadliest blazes in modern American history—said this month that “practically speaking,” he has already declared a climate emergency. “I’ve already done that,” he told the Weather Channel, defending his administration’s response to the “existential threat” of global warming. But “practically” isn’t the same as officially declaring one, which would unlock a greater array of powers to address the issue—including the ability to unilaterally limit drilling and fossil fuels. [Continue reading…]