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Two protestors display their signs. The Global Strike for Climate in Eugene, Ore. takes place at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza on Sept. 20, 2019. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

In order for the threat of climate change to be taken seriously, dramatic measures must be utilized. With governments, a commonly used tactic involves labeling events as emergencies. Although this word is often overused, it certainly helps bring attention to issues that require the interest of the public. 

Recently Milwaukie, Oregon became the first city in the state to declare a state of climate emergency. This announcement was coupled with a series of climate-related goals for the city, including becoming carbon neutral by 2045. These resolutions will speed up the city’s goals included in its Climate Action Plan by five years. Similarly, Hood River, Oregon declared a climate crisis, which was prompted by successful youth activism. Despite the slightly different terminology, ‘climate crisis’ accomplished the same goals as ‘climate emergency’.

Activism will play a major role in additional cities following in Milwaukie’s footsteps. The Oregon Climate Emergency Day of Action on Feb. 11 is exactly the kind of action needed to convince other cities throughout the U.S. to strive for the same progress. While cities like Portland have had climate action plans in place for years, these plans require continuous updating. As climate change becomes a more immediate threat, more immediate solutions and deadlines for goals are necessary.

Climate change is a serious threat to humanity, yet it is not often regarded as a time-sensitive issue in the United States. While industrial nations like the U.S. are the largest contributors to the destruction of the environment, it is the smaller, developing countries that feel the effects of climate change most severely. . This is clearly a climate emergency, and plans for easing the crisis are either shallow or non-existent throughout the country.

By declaring a state of emergency, Milwaukie is setting an excellent standard for both the state of Oregon and the entire country. Of course, merely using the word emergency is not nearly as effective as legitimate plans for aiding the climate crisis. But it does send the message to U.S. citizens that this is not an insignificant issue. The climate emergency should have been a top priority decades ago, but that should not stop other cities, big or small, from using this method now. Activism will play the biggest role in convincing cities throughout the U.S. that climate change must be viewed as an imminent emergency. Portland mayor Ted Wheeler is currently working with community leaders to address this issue, and could declare a state of climate emergency in Portland this year.

 

Overall, climate change is a global issue that will inevitably impact the lives of everyone. Solutions and changes that should’ve been implemented long before the new millennium are still yet to be seen. Dubbing this crisis as an emergency will be an effective way to push the U.S. to fight the biggest challenge we have been faced with. Humans have sped up the effects of climate change, and now it is our responsibility to solve it with new tactics.