On Tuesday, Representative Earl Blumenauer introduced a resolution in the House calling for a climate emergency. The legislation itself is symbolic in nature but sets out a series of organizing principles for why climate change is an emergency and why Congress should treat it as such.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez immediately threw her support behind it. On the press call announcing the resolution, she and Blumenauer said they would be reaching out to Republicans to ask them to join in sponsoring or otherwise supporting the resolution. With that in mind, Earther wanted to see how climate-engaged members of Congress felt about the resolution and reached out to members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, a group that includes nine Democrats and six Republicans.
Overall, the responses (or lack thereof) show that even as Congress may finally be coming around to doing something about climate change, there’s still a huge partisan gulf when it comes to acting like it’s an emergency. No Republicans said they would support the resolution, instead calling for “innovation” and avoiding “government overreach,” and wondering if the resolution is “just messaging.”
Now on the one hand, symbolic climate resolutions can end up being pretty hollow (see: Canada). There also basically no shot in hell the Senate version introduced by Bernie Sanders passes. But on the other, endorsing the growing reality that climate change is indeed an emergency can help galvanize further action under the aforementioned organizing principles of protecting Americans, creating jobs, and as the text lays out, making all efforts to “halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations.”
In theory, galvanizing action is the exact type of thing members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis would get behind. Crisis is a synonym for emergency, after all, and the committee’s raison d’être is “delivering ambitious climate policy recommendations to Congress ‘to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis.’” Sponsoring or otherwise supporting the climate emergency resolution would be a way for members of the committee to signal that they take climate change seriously and are committed to recommending policies that achieve emissions reductions and protect Americans.
As of Thursday morning, the 39 co-sponsors of the resolution include two members of the select committee, representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Joe Neguse. Earther reached out to the offices of the remaining committee members to gauge their interest in sponsoring or otherwise supporting the resolution. Below are their responses. First person responses are from representatives while third person are from their office spokespeople.
Representative Kathy Castor, Florida (committee chair): “The climate crisis is an emergency and we need to treat it like one. The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is focused on developing a set of bold policies. As chair of the committee, I’m enthused that so many members are filing thoughtful climate action bills and resolutions whether I sign onto them or not. I certainly agree we are facing a climate emergency and House Democrats are tackling the climate crisis through hearings, legislation and community action like never before. Democrats are committed to serious climate action. I wish GOP members were as thoughtful and outspoken.”
A spokesperson followed up to note Castor has not signed on to sponsor the resolution “at this point.”
Representative Ben Ray Luján, New Mexico: “I want to thank Congressman Blumenauer and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez for putting forward a bold resolution that takes direct aim at the climate crisis. Our changing climate is threatening all our ways of lives and the time to act is now. Like all pieces of legislation, I look forward to reviewing this resolution and having conversations with New Mexicans. As a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, I share my colleagues’ concerns that we cannot wait another moment to act on the climate crisis. The Green New Deal says we must follow the findings from the scientific community that show we need to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emission globally to avoid the most severe impacts of a changing climate, and I will always strongly support that effort.”
Representative Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon: “Thank you for reaching out. Congresswoman Bonamici supports the Climate Emergency Resolution and has signed on as a cosponsor.”
Representative Julia Brownley, California: No response.
Representative Jared Huffman, California: “Rep. Huffman agrees that we are in a climate emergency and has introduced numerous substantive bills in the House to stop carbon pollution and fossil fuels development, including the Keep it in the Ground Act to block fossil fuel extraction from public lands, the West Coast Ocean Protection Act to block offshore oil and gas in the Pacific, and the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act to permanently ban oil and gas leasing off the coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic. He is also a cosponsor of the Green New Deal. This nonbinding resolution acknowledges many aspects of our climate crisis, but then seems to disavow actually emergency authorities to do something about it. For that reason, Rep. Huffman believes it sends a confusing message about our obligation to take action in response to this national emergency and he has declined to cosponsor the resolution at this time.”
Representative A. Donald McEachin, Virginia: “Congressman McEachin is reviewing the resolution. Like his colleagues, the Congressman recognizes the urgency of the crisis and agrees that we have a moral imperative to take immediate and decisive action to minimize further climate change, prepare for its unavoidable effects, and reverse current damage. We will be in touch.”
Representative Mike Levin, California: “Thanks for reaching out. I can tell you that Rep. Mike Levin supports the resolution.”
Representative Sean Casten, Illinois: No response.
Representative Joe Neguse, Colorado: No response but has signed on as a co-sponsor.
Representative Garret Graves, Louisiana (ranking member): No response.
Representative Morgan Griffith, Virginia: “I am not going to sign on, but I did find interesting that the resolution’s ‘whereas’ clauses and paragraph one of the ‘resolved’ clauses repeatedly state that there is a climate emergency, while the concluding paragraph of the resolution specifically rules out legally treating the situation as an emergency. It begs the question: is it merely messaging?”
Representative Gary Palmer, Alabama: No response.
Representative Buddy Carter, Georgia: “I believe climate change is real. The climate has been changing since day one. I also believe that it needs to be addressed, but this resolution and other plans like the Green New Deal are not the way to do it. These plans are pie in the sky and government overreach at its finest. For example, this resolution supports labor unions and the phase out of oil, gas and coal with no viable or affordable alternatives available. Similarly, the Green New Deal includes extreme policies like government-run health care and it would harm the economy. To actually address climate change, we need to create solutions that are realistic, market based and actually focused on the problem. To do this, we need to support new, innovative energy production that makes America safer, more independent and keeps us as the leader of innovation in energy production in the world.”
Representative Carol Miller, West Virginia: “This legislation provides neither substance nor solutions. Congresswoman Miller is focused on delivering reliable and affordable electricity to American homes and businesses. Miller prioritizes innovation, like real carbon capture, in our energy industry without raising prices or reducing access to power. The resolution is nothing more than unproductive partisan posturing and the parroting of anti-energy talking points that demonize American coal, oil, and natural gas.”
Representative Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota: No response.
Update: Representative Ben Ray Luján’s office never received our initial request for comment due to a miscommunication.