Climate Change Before & After

2024, Hawaii looks forward with one eye on the rearview mirror

Editorial >

With Hawaii Gov. Josh Green Governor citing the growing impacts of global warming, the states’ top official acknowledged what most residents already know — that is, we are in the early stages of a growing and unstoppable climate crisis, and one which is now modifying Hawaii’s weather and the state’s climate outlook for the foreseeable future.

On Monday, Governor Green announced statewide efforts to enact a climate impact fee on tourists, somebody has to pay.  The $25 climate fee would be levied on visitors who stay hotels or short-term rentals. Green called it a “modest” fee that was “far less than the resort fees or other taxes visitors have paid for years.” He estimated it would generate more than $68 million every year for the state’s use.

Legislative firewall

Last year, a similar proposal died in the Senate in what is increasingly proving to be a dysfunctional legislative process controlled by just two powerful Senators controlling key committee positions, and who are operating without public accountability. Their self-appointed roles as special-interest gatekeepers determine which bills reach a legislative floor vote, let alone ever reaching the Governor’s desk for enactment. It is an example of state democracy at its worse, and one which too many of our citizens haplessly accept as Hawaii’s business-as-usual formula for determining statewide governing priorities. But it is also an obsolete legislative practice, and one which is now threatening a bold climate-response essential to the future of the state, and which will inevitably challenge the status quo.

Globa Heating Graph 2023 A warning heard loud & clear

The 2023 Maui wildfires that killed at least 100 people, caused widespread destruction, leaving several thousand Lahaina residents without homes, and is the front and center priority for this 2024 legislative cycle. Other pressing state business will more than likely be deferred to future legislative sessions.

One leadership bright spot which kicked-off the new year was a public presentation by some of Hawaii’s best and brightest on the state of climate – weather changes increasingly impacting Hawaii, and the world. The January 11th event, aka the 32nd legislative Interim of 2023, was hosted by Senator Mike Gabbard and Rep. Nicole Lowen, each responsible for environmental and climate issues within their respective state legislative chambers.

With each passing year, it is globally hotter than the previous year.

One of the presentations high points during the 3-hour hearing was Hawaii’s foremost climate expert, Chip Fletcher, PhD – University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dr. Fletcher provided the panel with a detailed overview of present and future climate consequences on life in Hawaii as the result of rising global temperatures now underway.

Three (3) climate-impacted areas of particular interest to the audience and the state are 1) increasing drought impacts on agriculture, 2) flooding of low-lying coastal areas, and 3) the increasing frequency and ferocity of cyclones and extreme weather events, the latter has been directly linked to the Lahaina fire disaster on Maui last year.

Sustianability Policy Elements1A corresponding climate-sustainability message all presenters seem to agree on was the need for an urgent and statewide transition (one superseding old assumptions), and that time is not on our side when it comes to preparing for the inevitability climate changes. And, how Hawaii is ill-equipped to address a rapidly changing climate increasingly measured in lost opportunity, and rising economic and social costs.






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