'That's huge!': Chuck Schumer thrills activists with surprise push for Biden to declare climate emergency

'That's huge!': Chuck Schumer thrills activists with surprise push for Biden to declare climate emergency
Chuck Schumer // MSNBC

Advocates for bold climate action welcomed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's remarks late Monday calling for President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency.

"That's huge!" tweeted Dallas Goldtooth, the Keep It In The Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network. It "would allow the president to take significant steps to confront climate chaos."

The New York Democrat's comment came Monday evening in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

"I think it might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency," said Schumer. "Then he can do many, many things under the emergency powers of the president that he could do... without legislation."

"Now, Trump used this emergency for a stupid wall, which wasn't an emergency. But if ever there was an emergency, climate is one," Schumer said.

Schumer reiterated the suggestion in a Monday night tweet, stating unequivocally that "Biden should declare a national emergency on the climate crisis."

Water protector Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, joined the chorus of cheers, tweeting, "Holey macaroni!!! SCHUMER says declare climate emergency... ok who said dem prayers?"

Author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben suggested the Biden's demand was evidence of the climate movement's impact.

"When we shift the zeitgeist, we shift what's politically possible, and what's politically necessary. Keep it up, everybody!" McKibben tweeted Tuesday.

That take was mirrored by youth climate leader and Earth Uprising International founder Alexandria Villaseñor, who said the remark was a sign Schumer was "keeping the promise he made to me and our entire generation."

The comment is "incredible" and a sign of a "tectonic shift," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and political director Evan Weber, who, like environmental policy expert Dr. Leah Stokes, welcomed Schumer saying that his legislative policy priorities are climate, racial and economic inequality, and democracy reform.

A coalition of climate groups including the Center for Biological Diversity has already drafted an executive order for Biden to be a "climate president," with action including the declaration of a climate emergency.

Recent polling indicates a majority of the U.S. public would back that action.

A Yale Program on Climate Change Communication survey from December found that 56% of voters would support a president "declaring a national emergency to act on global warming," with 84% of Democratic voters backing such an action.

That support is also clear from Green New Deal champion Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who tweeted Tuesday, "We've got to recognize the climate crisis for what it is: an existential threat to life on Earth."

"I'm glad Sen. Schumer agrees that we must meet this emergency with a bold vision, transform our economy, and fight for justice in every step we take," Markey said.

But not all Democratic lawmakers are on board.

Sunrise's Weber, in his tweet, pointed to the need for Schumer to have a plan to not only "bypass GOP obstruction" in advancing climate and other priorities but also tackle pushback from Democratic senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose opposition to eliminating the legislative filibuster enraged progressive Democrats.

"As Senate majority leader, he'll be judged by his results, not just his positions," Weber added.

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