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STILL no Climate Emergency declaration, but are we shifting the tide?

By Scott Kelley, Raise the Alarm Team Leader

People working on street chalk art

On July 24th, 2023 , SanDiego350, led by Youth4Climate and the Raise the Alarm (RTA) team, joined with organizations around the country as part of the People vs. Fossil Fuels Coalition to demand President Biden declare a Climate Emergency. Rallying with our allies in front of San Diego’s biggest fossil fuel company, Sempra, we called for an end to fossil fuel expansion, an end to climate injustice, and an immediate transition to the green energy future we need to survive. Declaring a Climate Emergency will free up billions of dollars to tackle the climate crisis head on. Fossil fuel companies like Sempra and their subsidiary SDG&E are becoming filthy rich off planetary destruction and have no incentive to change. In fact, they are doing the opposite by getting the CPUC to kill off solar and trying to pass a punitive Utility Tax that will hurt working people who use very little energy the most, while killing off both conservation efforts and rooftop solar.

Let that sink in: Amid the climate crisis, Sempra and the other private utilities are killing both conservation and solar in California. 

There is no way we can trust these companies to do the right thing, so we absolutely need our public officials like Biden to take charge. This is also why we are pushing for Public Power, so we can stop funding SDG&E and Sempra’s fiscal abuse and stop paying them to frack the Earth.

Youth being interviewed

This rally followed a similar one in August 2022 also at Sempra HQ, as well as a rally in January 2023 in front of the Federal building, both demanding Biden declare a Climate Emergency.  In 2022, deadly heatwaves were raging all around the globe along with droughts or massive floods. The evidence of fossil-fuel driven climate collapse was everywhere. And what was the White House response? Silence. No declaration of a Climate Emergency. On the contrary, the Biden administration expanded oil and drilling and the extremely dangerous export of fracked methane.

By this summer the emergency had transformed into a full-blown crisis. Smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketed half the US while an area the size of Portugal burned to the ground. For a week, the Earth was the hottest it had been in 125,000 years. Florida waters reached hot tub temperatures, the entire Mediterranean was on fire, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Nova Scotia, and Vermont experienced record flooding, and in Arizona people received 3rd degree burns falling on the sidewalk. And the climate crisis led to horrific loss of life. Over 100 people burned to death in Maui in a firestorm and 5000 are missing and presumed dead after flooding from torrential rains in Libya. 

People holding protest signs

Once again, we were out there demanding that the government do the extremely obvious and declare a Climate Emergency. During the rally in July, we blocked off the street and chalked a beautiful mural linking Sempra’s fracked methane to the destruction of the planet. Speakers from Youth4Climate, and RTA gave powerful speeches calling all of us to action. We drew media from 6 television stations and gave interviews that appeared all over San Diego. Unlike at previous rallies, the local reporters seemed much more aware of the climate crisis and powerful interview clips appeared on numerous stations. The response was extremely heartening. Watch the recap of the event here.

Since these rallies and other actions around the country, the tone and stance of the Biden Administration has started to shift. When asked by reporters whether he would declare a Climate Emergency, Biden said he already had “practically speaking”. While this appears to be a deflection, it shows that he knows he should declare one. And just recently, Biden canceled all the remaining oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge.

This tells us that our actions are working. Between the unrelenting reality of the climate catastrophe and the unrelenting pressure of climate heroes, the powers that be are starting to see that they must act to save the planet and humanity. Forza SanDiego350!

Protesters standing behind the chalk art