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Editorial | Island Voices

Hawaii’s youth should care about climate change

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    Ken-Ben Chao

Growing up in Hawaii, I never felt a particular attachment to any world issues. More than 2,000 miles of ocean separate us from the closest continental landmass.

With perhaps the exception of North Korean nukes, problems of international security never threatened to affect our idyllic way of life or take away the natural beauty of our island paradise home.

Yet, this past summer, for the first time in recorded history, Hawaii witnessed three Category 4 hurricanes lined up in the central and eastern Pacific. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in the recent dengue fever outbreak on Hawaii island has reached at least 176. And reports from the National Climate Assessment and University of Hawaii Sea Grant program suggest both phenomena are tied to what President Barack Obama has called the “greatest threat to our future”: climate change.

These reports tell us we need to aggressively confront climate change.

Thankfully, Hawaii has already begun. Just this year, the state government set ambitious standards to have a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio by 2045. It also created the first carbon tax in the United States. And renewable energy usage, especially rooftop solar, has dramatically increased in recent years.

Hawaii is taking action.

However, Hawaii alone will not be able to protect itself from climate change. A problem of this magnitude will require global action.

Recently in Paris, at COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, representatives of countries, businesses and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world worked toward an agreement that facilitates international action on climate change.

With our futures at stake, we, the youth of Hawaii — as members of the demographic with the most to lose from climate change — should be vigorously involved and engaged.

Gov. David Ige recently made the bold statement that Hawaii would welcome Syrian refugees. Today, we are privileged enough to be in a position where we may decide to open our doors to the displaced. In the coming decades, we may find ourselves on the other side of the door.

If adequate action against climate change is not taken by the entire world, we will be forced to watch our coral reefs lose their vibrant colors, the diverse flora and fauna of our ecosystems fade away, and the rising seas consume our beautiful beaches.

The youth of Hawaii today might join the countless people in the future who will be forced to leave their homes because of climate change.

It is time for all of us, the youth of Hawaii, to take responsibility for our own future. Youth are 1 of 9 constituencies especially affected by climate change recognized under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The world demands to hear our voices.

If we allow our peaceful way of life and the beauty of our home to distract us into complacency, then we may lose them both. By educating ourselves and each other, taking individual and collective action to reduce consumption and emissions, and holding governments and businesses accountable to action, we fight for our right to the future we want.

Climate change is not a freight train arriving from the distant horizon. It already has arrived and it will be here for the foreseeable future. When we hear of the next great storm, flood or heat wave, of dwindling food supplies from affected agriculture, of indigenous communities forced to migrate and forsake their ways of life, of rising sea levels threatening entire islands, or of any other catastrophe or phenomenon induced by climate change somewhere across the far reaches of the world, we need not ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for us.



Columnist Richard Borreca is off for the holidays.

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  • The sky is not falling and it is foolish to run out a spend billions of dollars in the belief we can keep it from falling based on reports that “suggest” certain natural phenomena are being caused by global warming or climate change. Where is the definitive proof?

  • Love how they changed the name from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change”… Weather data records tells us that the temperature of the earth has been slightly cooling over the last 20 Years… but instead of rejoicing and saying that we have made positive steps… The eco-terrorists know that any positive change will result in less money. There, it’s reared it’s ugly head. Follow The Money and you’ll see what this “Climate Change” business is all about. It’s a money grab and you need to manufacture a cause and get people all frightened and excited to keep the money rolling in. Sorry, Charlie, the climate may be changing, as it has for billions of years from ice age to tropical to desert climates… but, really… man has never had any control of the weather now has he?

    • Stanislous, agree with your post. Wanted to add, that the United States have moved light years ahead with the research and development of mini-nuclear plants (Naval ships power plant) and recycling spent nuclear rods, why an Island State such as Hawaii not invest and move towards a clean and inexpensive power source for each Island. The advantages for the Islands are beyond imagination. And, we all enjoy “Star Wars” and honor COL Onizuka with some 20 nuclear submarines stationed at Pearl.

  • While a debate exists about whether global warming is a man-made or natural phenomenon, there are aspects to mitigation that will be beneficial no matter the verdict. For instance, ocean acidification can be directly attributed to human activity. By working to control carbon emissions we can help keep our oceans healthier by reducing the introduction of harmful chemicals and everyone benefits. Deforestation has been linked to global warming. Whether it contributes to global warming or not, restoration of forests and wild areas creates animal habitat and makes our planet more verdant. Raising cattle is named as a global warming culprit. Whether or not this is true, raising cattle for human nutrition is an inefficient utilization of land area and is hard on the local environment. Exchanging a percentage of our protein sources to a plant-based platform would result in more efficient use of land areas and less damage to habitat and water tables. Without citing other examples and making an essay out of this reply, I would like to forward the idea that the same methods suggested for mitigating global warming are best practices for reducing the impact of existing issues.

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