HILO — The Big Island is officially facing a climate crisis, according to a resolution unanimously passed Wednesday by the Hawaii County Council.
Resolution 322 officially declares a climate emergency for the county and urges collaborative mobilization to restore the climate to stability.
The resolution, which is not legally binding, calls for the county to “implement a just, equitable countywide emergency climate mobilization to reverse global warming by drastically reducing countywide emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases” no later than 2030.
Other goals of the resolution include the swift completion of a Hawaii Island Climate Action Plan, the expansion of the county’s electric vehicle infrastructure and the support of widespread transitions to climate-smart agriculture. It concludes by calling on the rest of the state and nation and all governments worldwide to join the county in working to reverse global warming by halting the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Dozens of county residents testified in favor of the resolution, calling it a good first step in ensuring the island remains livable in what they said to be the face of impending climate catastrophe.
“Our lifestyle has been supported by the digging and drilling of fossil fuels,” said Volcano resident Ron Riley. “You could say we’ve dug ourselves into a hole. So maybe the first advice to someone stuck in a hole is to stop digging.”
Others warned of the potential dangers climate change poses to the fragile ecosystem of the island.
Rising ocean temperatures already caused significant die-offs among coral reefs surrounding the island, said Hawi resident Topher Dean, destroying the habitats of thousands of ocean species and, ultimately, a barrier protecting the island’s beaches from the ocean waves.
“If this keeps up, you can say goodbye to all the beaches in Hawaii,” Dean said.
North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff said the resolution might not have a significant legal impact, but symbolically can be a model for other counties and communities worldwide.
Although the attitude among most of the testifiers and council members was hopeful, council Chairman Aaron Chung’s comments about the resolution carried a ring of doom.
“It is too late,” Chung said flatly.
At best, Chung went on, the human race can hope to delay the oncoming climate apocalypse, but the end will catch up with us eventually.
As long as the human population continues to expand uncontrollably, and as long as other countries continue to abuse natural resources — such as the government of Brazil’s policies toward the deforestation of the Amazon — “we don’t have a chance,” Chung said.
“There’s always an end date,” Chung said. “The dinosaurs all died out; we will, too.”
Despite Chung’s sobering remarks, the resolution passed to applause from the audience.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.