GOP is Trying to Outlaw the Declaration of a Climate Emergency

Climate change is an emergency. We’re all clear on that, right? It looks like we’re entering a new phase of warming, with sea surface temperatures rising off the charts, Antarctic sea ice falling off the charts, killer heat waves, and fires stretching across Canada, the need for change has never been more urgent. Regardless of what action we’re talking about, the most likely way for the dysfunctional government of the US to do something real and immediate, is for the president to declare global warming to be a national emergency. I don’t have high hopes that Biden will do much, but the possibility is there, and it increases as things get worse. Naturally, the GOP is responding to that possibility by trying to change the law to remove that power from the presidency, for climate change in particular:

Senate Republicans introduced legislation earlier this week that would prohibit President Joe Biden from declaring a national climate emergency as millions across the U.S. shelter indoors to escape scorching heat and toxic pollution from Canadian wildfires, which have been fueled by runaway warming.

Led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)—a fossil fuel industry ally and the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee—the GOP bill would “prohibit the president from using the three primary statutory authorities available (the National Emergencies Act, the Stafford Act, and section 319 of the Public Health Service Act) to declare a national emergency solely on the basis of climate change,” according to a summary released by the Republican senator’s office.

Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), another friend of the oil and gas industry, is leading companion legislation in the House.

The updated version of the bill, first introduced last year, comes as Biden is facing mounting pressure from environmental groups to use all of the power at his disposal to fight the climate crisis as it intensifies extreme weather across the U.S. and around the world.

A climate emergency declaration would unlock sweeping executive powers that would allow the president to halt crude oil exports, block oil and gas drilling, expand renewable energy systems, and more.

While Biden reportedly considered declaring a climate emergency amid a devastating heatwave last year, he ultimately decided against it to the dismay of environmentalists.

But the impacts of Canada’s record-shattering wildfires, which are likely to get worse in the coming weeks, have sparked another round of calls for Biden to follow in the footsteps of jurisdictions in more than 40 countries and declare climate change a national emergency.

It doesn’t seem likely that the bill is going to be made into law, but it’s a nice demonstration of where the GOP stands on all of this. Well, the GOP plus Joe Manchin (of course), and Mark Kelly. Basically, it seems like the filibuster and a potential veto are what stand in the way. I do think the filibuster needs to go, but as long as we have it, it’s nice to see it do something good once in a while.

On a personal note, I don’t like that the US is at a point where executive action through a national emergency is the most likely way to get progress on climate change. There are a number of ways in which our current system has been sabotaged in a way that almost encourages people to look to authoritarianism as the best way to get things done. At times, it feels as though the US population is being primed to welcome an eco-fascist, in the name of action, when it becomes impossible to deny the failures of our “democratic” system. Maybe this is just the authoritarian streak that has always existed in the US, but it feels especially dangerous in this moment.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    the US population is being primed to welcome an eco-fascist

    Not a facetious question: would you vote for them?

    Longer form: say there was a candidate who was running on a credible platform (as in, you actually trusted that they were going to do something meaningful and effective to address climate change, in stark contrast to their opposition who would actively harm progress) – what OTHER policies would they have to have to make you abstain or vote for the other guy?

    What I think I’m asking is – what IS an “eco-fascist”, in this context? How extreme, realistically, could they be? The GOP probably consider Biden practically an eco-fascist already, hence steps to slow him down. What would YOU consider worthy of the title? I’m guessing it wouldn’t have to get as bad as “I’m going to fix the climate and the Jews too while I’m at it”, but what’s a coherent policy that addresses the emergency but comes across as fascism? Banning private cars? Banning internal combustion engines?

    Note: this is not a setup to a gotcha, I’m not here to go “ah, you’re prepared to compromise your principles for X, you hypocrite” or anything. Just drilling into what “eco-fascist” might mean in the real world.

  2. says

    An eco-fascist is basically a fascist who folds environmentalism into their narrative. That means that, as with all other problems, they scapegoat powerless people as the cause, with the domination or elimination of those people as the solution.

    It could, in theory, include a push for renewable or nuclear energy, along with increased and diversified domestic food production, in the United States. “America First”, complete with “brown and queer people are the problem”, and a return to government involvement and benefits on the behalf of white, straight people only, while most of the global south is maintained as “sacrifice zones”, at gunpoint.

    The problem is that eco-fascists lie, just like other facists, and their “solutions” don’t actually solve the problem, but as with “normal” fascism, people can be hoodwinked, confused, or frightened into going along with someone who promises immediate, dramatic change. The worse things get, the more people will be willing to overlook that other stuff and believe the lie.

    In that respect, it’s not much different from the promises we normally see from fascists – that they’ll fix the economy, or fix the crime problem. They won’t, but lots of people believe they will.

    There’s a degree to which this question feels like asking at what point I’d go along with a homeopathic cure for cancer. As the disease got worse, I’d probably be more desperate for something to save myself, but that wouldn’t make homeopathy any more worthy of my consideration, you know?

  3. sonofrojblake says

    Yeah, fair enough.

    Strikes me such a person would be walking a tightrope, trying to convince the peasants that they’re going to do something about the environment while simultaneously not spooking the vested interests who (if they thought for a second the candidate actually meant it) would sink their campaign in a heartbeat.

    A non-eco fascist can spin the lie “I’m going to fix the economy by stopping the brown people coming here”, because the banks don’t give a monkey’s about immigration, and the peasants will vote for it because they don’t like darkies.

    An eco fascist has to spin the lie “I’m going to fix the economy by reigning in the fossil fuel companies” convincingly enough to win votes, but without getting assassinated by any fossil fuel companies. That’d be quite a trick, I think.

  4. says

    I could easily see an eco-fascist focusing on overpopulation, and on the pollution of countries like India and China as the primary concern. They can point to bogus carbon credits and stuff like that to claim that WE are already doing what we need to be doing, and it’s those other people who’re dragging us down, with their lack of civilization, and degeneracy, and blah blah blah

    Honestly, the focus will probably be mostly on refugees, and the “we have to take care of our own”, while continuing to narrow who counts as “our own”.

    Improve the standard of living for the white, conservative majority, at the cost of everyone else.

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