Do Not Declare a “Climate Emergency”

By Alex Epstein

“Climate emergency” declaration = endless dictatorship

Originally published on Aug 17, 2023

Do Not Declare a “Climate Emergency”

Rising CO2 levels are:

  1. Not dire: Humans are safer from climate than ever.
  2. Not temporary: They will rise for decades.
  3. Not in our control: We emit 1/7 of CO2—and falling.

“Climate emergency” declaration = endless dictatorship

  • As many leaders obsess about summer temperatures that are predictably a little warmer than they used to be—given the gradual warming trend and El Nino year—we are hearing more calls for the Biden Admin to declare a “climate emergency.”

    This would be a catastrophic decision.

  • A government “emergency” declaration is a temporary increase in power that should only be used if a problem meets 3 criteria:

    • Dire: Unusually deadly
    • Temporary: Of limited duration
    • In our control: Actually solvable by our government

    “Climate emergency” is none of these.

  • 1: Rising CO2 levels are not dire

    While “climate change”—humans impacting climate—is real, “climate emergency” is not. A world in which far more people die of cold than of heat is slowly becoming warmer—and our ability to master climate danger is rapidly increasing.1

  • The truth is that fossil fuels’ CO2 emissions have contributed to the warming of the last 170 years, but that warming has been mild—1° C, mostly in the colder parts of the world. And life on Earth thrived (and was far greener) when CO2 levels were at least 5 times higher than today’s.2
  • Fossil fuels actually overall make us far safer from climate by providing low-cost energy for the amazing machines that protect us against storms, protect us against extreme temperatures, and alleviate drought. Climate disaster deaths have decreased 98% over the last century.3Art 03 More fossil fuel use, plummeting climate-related disaster deaths
  • When we are evaluating the threat level of climate impact from our use of fossil fuels, we obviously need to incorporate our climate mastery ability—e.g., fossil-fueled cooling, heating, irrigation—which can potentially neutralize fossil fuels’ negative climate impacts.
  • Even though we obviously need to factor in fossil fuels’ climate mastery benefits, many designated experts totally fail to do this.

    E.g., the UN IPCC’s multi-thousand-page reports totally omit fossil-fueled climate mastery! That’s like a polio report omitting the polio vaccine.

  • With rising CO2 we must be evenhanded, considering both negatives (more heatwaves) and positives (fewer cold deaths). And we must be precise, not equating some impact with huge impact. “Climate emergency” claims are neither evenhanded nor precise when looking at rising CO2.
  • Even though we obviously need to be evenhanded and precise with rising CO2, most designated experts ignore big positives (e.g., global greening) while catastrophizing negatives (e.g., Gore portrays 20 ft sea level rise as imminent when extreme UN projections are 3ft/100yrs).4 Global mean sea level change relative to 1900
  • What about damage from a changing climate?

    The trend of real (inflation-adjusted) weather damage is flat—despite many factors increasing vulnerability, like increasing coastal populations and bad incentives from government bailout policies.

    This is the opposite of an emergency.5Pielke disaster losses attribution

  • The number of climate-related disasters also didn’t increase during the 21st century, when we have the most complete data coverage, despite factors making disaster declarations more likely, independent of climate change—e.g., population increases in vulnerable spots.6Pielke Em DAT disasters 2022
  • If the world continues using fossil fuels to provide reliable, low-cost energy to billions of people, the result will not be a climate crisis but continued manageable warming, significant greening, and a far better life for billions of people.
  • We often hear that 97% of climate scientists believe our climate impact is dire—a “climate emergency.”

    But while most agree on some human climate impact, they certainly do not agree there is an emergency.

    See the following for a total debunking.The myth that "97% of climate scientists agree" about a climate crisis

  • Even if the climate impact of rising CO2 levels were a dire threat, the only justification of emergency powers vs. considered legislation would be if the situation were temporary and solvable by our government. Neither is true.
  • 2: Rising CO2 levels are not temporary

    Emergency powers are only justified for immediate, temporary issues with short-term solutions. Rising CO2 levels are a multi-decade issue that should be deliberated by legislators, not used as a pretext for unlawful Presidential power.

  • Rising CO2 levels, the main object of concern of the “climate emergency” movement, will occur so long as human beings emit any significant amount of CO2—because emitted CO2 aggregates in the atmosphere year after year, being sequestered by oceans and plants only very slowly.
  • Even if 100% net-zero energy is just a few decades away (absurd) that means that rising CO2 levels will be with us for decades—and it'll take even longer for CO2 to return to today's levels. Thus, rising CO2 is a very long-term issue—not at all what emergency powers are for.
  • According to IPCC projections, even the most aggressive anti-fossil-fuel policies (which would shorten billions of lives)—would take decades to decrease CO2. All this time the “emergency powers” would have to stay in place—which is exactly what such powers aren't supposed to do.7 OWID ghg concentrationsipcc-scenarios
  • When dealing with a long-term issue of any perceived severity, governments should engage in careful deliberation via the legislative process—just as our Constitution prescribes. Calling a long-term issue an “emergency” is an Unconstitutional seizure of dictatorial power.
  • As legal scholar Liza Goitein explains: “declaring a national emergency to address climate change… would essentially validate the use of emergency powers to address long-standing policy problems.” And “That’s not what these powers are for.”8
  • Why do “climate emergency” types want to circumvent the Constitutional, deliberative process regarding rising CO2 levels? Probably because they don't like the outcome of real deliberation on this issue, which is that trying to stop CO2 rises near-term is profoundly destructive.
  • The only reason for a President to declare “emergency” with a long-term issue is if they want unchallenged long-term power. And because no amount of US power can control rising CO2, it's a power grab for power's sake.
  • 3: Rising CO2 levels are not in our control

    Emergency powers only apply when our government, and only our government, can control the outcome. But rising CO2 is an issue where the vast majority of control belongs to others—such as China, which is currently building over 100 coal plants.9

  • The US causes less than 1/7 of global CO2 emissions—and falling. The main reason global CO2 emissions are rising is because billions of people in the developing world are bringing themselves out of poverty by using fossil fuels to power factories, farms, vehicles, and appliances.10Global emissions 2021
  • The developing world overwhelmingly uses fossil fuels because that is by far the lowest-cost way for them to get reliable energy. Unreliable solar and wind can’t come close. That’s why China and India are constructing so many new coal plants (150+) designed to run for decades.11
  • Because CO2 emissions are overwhelmingly controlled by the rest of the world, it is absurd to treat rising CO2 levels as something the US government can address with emergency powers—unless “climate emergency” types are talking about trying to declare nuclear war on everyone.
  • The only moral and practical way to reduce CO2 emissions is innovation that makes low-carbon energy globally cost-competitive. So long as fossil fuels are the most cost-competitive option for people, especially in developing nations, they will (rightly) choose to emit CO2.
  • The only way to make low-carbon energy globally cost-competitive is through political and economic freedom, so that promising technology like low-cost nuclear can develop and proliferate globally. Subsidizing or mandating inferior technologies in the US just punishes Americans.
  • Climate emergency = Dictatorial powers + energy emergency

    Government should not declare a “climate emergency” because rising CO2 levels are not dire, temporary, or under our control.

    If it does, the consequence will be endless dictatorial powers that destroy American energy.

  • While climate catastrophists tell us to fear the future if Biden doesn't declare a “climate emergency,” the truth is that we should fear the future if he does.

    He has already helped create an energy emergency even without official “emergency” powers!

  • As a White House spokesman says, Biden has been “crystal clear” in treating climate as “an emergency — the existential threat of our time — since day one.” This has led him to repeatedly circumvent Congress to restrict fossil fuel investment, production, refining, and transportation.12
  • Biden has restricted fossil fuel

    • investment through ESG dictates
    • production through bans on Federal drilling
    • refining by opposing a refinery in the Virgin Islands
    • transportation by killing the Keystone XL pipeline

    And this is him without “emergency” powers!

  • As Senator Capito aptly observes: “The Biden administration has repeatedly governed by executive overreach when it comes to energy and environmental regulations, ignoring the law and doing so without congressional approval.” An “emergency” declaration would mean far more of this.13
  • What scale of dictatorial powers would Biden get if he declared a “climate emergency”? Potentially limitless. One of the leading “climate emergency” groups says “If he declares a national emergency, it triggers the ability for him to deploy around 130 different powers”!14
  • While calls for a “climate emergency” declaration contain many individual, highly destructive proposals—an enduring ban on drilling on Federal lands, banning oil imports and exports—we know from the Covid experience that “emergency” power can easily equal limitless power.15
  • During the height of Covid fear, governments decided that if they declared “emergency” they could indefinitely lock citizens in their homes, prevent them from working, prevent them from socializing, and prevent them from educating their children.

    Climate catastrophists felt inspired.16Australian Broadcasting Company climate emergency levels

  • During Covid lockdowns, because people could not live their lives, their energy use, including fossil fuel use and therefore CO2 emissions, went down. Instead of being horrified by the mass-suffering, many climate catastrophists celebrated the emissions cut and called for more.
  • The author of a paper calling for drastic emissions cuts said, of the Covid shutdown: “This tells you that the massive change we saw in the economy — in this case because we were shutting it down — an equivalent change needs to happen in the decarbonisation of the world.”17climate lockdown quotes
  • Catastrophists eagerly point out that to achieve their goals we don't just need to decrease emissions as much as occurred during the Covid shutdown, we need to keep decreasing emissions by that much every year!

    This is the mentality Biden would cater to with “emergency” powers.18UN spokesperson climate lockdowns

  • Given the Biden administration's willingness to violate the Constitution to attack fossil fuels without emergency powers, and given the infinite interpretation of “emergency” today, a “climate emergency” declaration means unlimited dictatorial power to destroy fossil fuel use.
  • Legal scholar Liza Goitein says “I’ve heard people advocate that the president use this power to essentially block any buying or selling of fossil fuels.” This mentality having the force of law is deadly, because it means our government will destroy energy far more than it already has.19
  • Here's how the “climate emergency” movement has created a global energy crisis. Dictatorial “climate emergency” powers for Joe Biden would make it far worse.How a fake climate emergency created a real energy emergency
  • Here's how the ”climate emergency” movement is crippling US energy production, especially our ability to produce plentiful natural gas for ourselves and the world. Dictatorial “climate emergency” powers for Joe Biden would make things far worse.America’s energy crisis is mostly US Democrats’ fault
  • Here's how the “climate emergency” movement is destroying our grid. Dictatorial “climate emergency” powers for Joe Biden would make it far worse.The EPA vs. the grid
  • Instead of giving our leaders limitless, dictatorial emergency powers to address the non-dire, non-temporary, and not-in-our-control rise in CO2 levels, we should adopt energy freedom policies that promote energy abundance and low-carbon energy innovation.A pro-human, pro-freedom policy for CO2 emissions


  1. Zhao et al. (2021)

    Bjorn Lomborg: Climate change and deaths from extreme heat and cold

    Bjorn Lomborg on Twitter

  2. NASA - GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP v4)

    U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, - Climate change rule of thumb: cold "things" warming faster than warm things

    “The best estimate of CO2 concentration in the global atmosphere 540 million years ago is 7,000 ppm, with a wide margin of error.”

  3. UC San Diego - The Keeling Curve

    For every million people on earth, annual deaths from climate-related causes (extreme temperature, drought, flood, storms, wildfires) declined 98%--from an average of 247 per year during the 1920s to 2.5 per year during the 2010s.

    Data on disaster deaths come from EM-DAT, CRED / UCLouvain, Brussels, Belgium – (D. Guha-Sapir).

    Population estimates for the 1920s from the [Maddison Database 2010] (, the Groningen Growth and Development Centre, Faculty of Economics and Business at University of Groningen. For years not shown, population is assumed to have grown at a steady rate.

    Population estimates for the 2010s come from World Bank Data.

  4. IPCC AR6, WG1

  5. Roger Pielke - Weather and Climate Disaster Losses So Far in 2022, Still Not Getting Worse

  6. Roger Pielke - 21st Century Global Disasters

  7. Our World in Data - Data Explorer: IPCC Scenarios, Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide

  8. The Hill - What would declaring a national climate emergency do?

  9. As of July 2023, China is constructing 128 new coal-fired power stations.
    Global Energy Monitor - Coal Plant Tracker, Coal Plants by Country (Power Stations)

  10. Our World in Data - Annual CO₂ emissions by world region

  11. As of July 2023, China and India are constructing a combined 153 new coal-fired power plants.
    Global Energy Monitor - Coal Plant Tracker, Coal Plants by Country (Power Stations)

  12. Washington Post - Biden's first climate czar, Gina McCarthy, is getting a big new gig

  13. U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee - Capito, Colleagues Reintroduce Bill to Prevent Biden Administration from Declaring Climate Change a National Emergency

  14. Yahoo News - What it would mean for Biden to declare a national climate emergency

  15. Center for Biological Diversity - THE CLIMATE PRESIDENT’S EMERGENCY POWERS

  16. ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) - Climate change targets achievable by keeping global emissions to COVID levels, scientists say

  17. ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) - Climate change targets achievable by keeping global emissions to COVID levels, scientists say

  18. UN News - What will power the post-pandemic global economic recovery?

  19. The Hill - What would declaring a national climate emergency do?