The Phoenix

The Case for Declaring a National Climate Emergency

It’s time the U.S. government made it official: We’re in the midst of a major crisis, and we need to act now

Eric Holthaus
Future Human
Published in
5 min readFeb 11, 2021
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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We are at a critical moment in the entirety of human history

According to NASA data, last year was the hottest year in modern record-keeping — and probably the hottest our planet has been since agriculture was invented about 12,000 years ago. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now at its highest level in about 4 million years and is rising at the fastest rate since the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

I’ve been saying these words for years now: We are in a climate emergency.

What we do now will have ramifications not only for the rest of our lives but will ripple through the future for as long as life endures on Earth — thousands and millions of years from now.

As dire as all this seems, it is still possible to do enough in the time we have left to avert catastrophe and build a just world that works for everyone. And if it is still possible, then we absolutely must do it. There are no excuses.

In the words of Toni Cade Bambara, via the climate writer Mary Annaïse Heglar, now is the moment where we need to “make revolution irresistible.”

It’s time to declare a climate emergency

Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Earl Blumenauer introduced a bill in Congress that would require President Joe Biden to invoke emergency powers to…



Eric Holthaus
Future Human

Meteorologist | Climate correspondent