What is an emergency?

As quoted by Jenn White on the first hour of 1A this morning, the National Review published an editorial claiming that climate change is not an emergency.* Even the worst case scenario, they claim, won’t be all that bad. But what’s worse: the editorial alleges that the climate crisis does not constitute a legal emergency, meaning that it does not meet the legal criteria to allow the US President to declare a national emergency, as must be done (cf. this article in the NYT for a summary).
The claim made in the editorial was that a true emergency must be sudden and unexpected, not (as with the climate crisis) long foreseen.

I am seething that anyone has the audacity to have gone from a climate-change-denier to the publication of the view that we’ve all known this was coming for a long time. But anyway… turning aside from that galling bit of it…

Let’s take the example of the on-going invasion of Ukraine, which was certainly not sudden or unexpected, as per the US Government’s strategy of preemptive disclosures ahead of the invasion. We knew about it ahead of time, so this is not an emergency? Must not be. We were told Putin would send in Russian soldiers. We were told where Russian soldiers had been amassing on the borders. We were told in the weeks leading up to the invasion that Putin could invade at any moment. So that’s not an emergency. It can’t be. We knew about it ahead of time.

To take a less political issue: hurricanes are surely common knowledge ahead of their impact. We can even say if they will land and then where, and we can do so with confidence. So no hurricane can be an emergency then, can it? Compared to a tornado, for which the advanced notice is often only time enough to take shelter, a hurricane must not be an emergency.

We must act like this is an emergency, especially now that the US President has publicly said that climate change constitutes “a literal existential threat” and is thus an “emergency.” Whether or not he has bureaucratically declared a national emergency, given that the words of the President have an inherent enactive power beyond ordinary speech, he has officially declared that this is an emergency.

*. Sorry but I’m definitely not going to link to NR or any other oligarch publications, just like I’m not going to go to their site and give them that additional bit of traffic. Jenn White quotes the piece on 1A.

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