The irony was overwhelming the day 350Hawaii met with a Honolulu City Council member to discuss climate change and goals the council should set toward ending fossil fuel use and saving the climate we all depend on.

As we met, our neighbors were boarding windows and scrambling for supplies; city and state workers were closing operations so they could go home to do the same: prepare for Category 4 Hurricane Lane.

What was 350Hawaii asking for? For the council to connect the dots. The state’s current target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 is woefully inadequate and a serious disconnect from what the science tells us.

Our ask? A resolution setting a goal of 100 percent clean renewable energy for all Oahu needs, including ground transportation, by 2030, and opposing all new fossil fuel infrastructure within city jurisdiction.

Can we afford this?

Photovoltaic PV solar at Daniel Inouye Airport.
Photovoltaic panels at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

We’ll save money. A recent utility scale solar-plus-storage project on Kauai costs $0.11/kWh while retail there exceeds $0.30/kWh. Molokai just approved a 5MW battery energy storage system at $0.18/kWh. Consensus among policymakers is that renewable is cheaper and more reliable.

The “Transcending Oil” report released by the Honolulu-based Elemental Excelerator in April said Hawaii can reach 100 percent clean energy by 2030, at less cost than the current energy mix or current renewables portfolio standard, under most scenarios.

The study says that “accelerating the clean energy transition will bring real economic and environmental benefits including: Increasing investment in clean energy up to an additional $2.9 billion … Adding thousands of new good-paying jobs … Creating a strong platform for innovation, … (and) Meeting Hawaii’s Paris Commitment.”

The authors are an interdisciplinary group of policy experts, economic analysts, energy modelers, data engineers and climate scientists, and include former employees of the U.S. departments of Energy and Transportation. They received feedback from the Hawaii State Energy Office and various other experts in Hawaii. The report includes 11 policy recommendations.

Anyone concerned about cost should note that the State Climate Commission’s “Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report” predicts a sea level rise of 3.2 feet as early as 2060, costing Oahu alone an estimated $12.9 billion.

Rally Planned

Don’t bans always hurt someone?

Yes. Smoking bans hurt the tobacco industry (though not much). The glyphosate ban will hurt Monsanto; the oxybenzone ban will hurt Bayer.

Some bans are necessary, because they protect our health, safety, environment, and future. If we don’t ban fossil fuels, how will we ever get off of them? And if we don’t stop using fossil fuels, we will destroy our life support system.

The thousands of new good-paying jobs and overall savings from using renewables — if distributed wisely — should go far toward compensating anyone affected negatively by the transition.

350Hawaii is holding a Saturday rally at the Capitol at 11:30 a.m., as part of an 80-nation Rise for Climate Day. We are gathering to remind our elected officials we need action now. No more stalling. No more delays.

In September, the Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency will begin holding community meetings to gather input for a Climate Action Plan, to be complete by summer of 2019. This process is valid and necessary, but years too late. That’s not CCSR’s fault — they’ve only existed for a year. But we can’t wait another year to commit to action, and we can’t wait 27 years to be fossil free.

Every local government and institution needs to commit to building 100 percent renewable energy for all — right now — and stopping new dirty energy projects. Anything less falls short of what science, justice and reason demand.

Is 2030 realistic?

What’s realistic is Category 4 Hurricane Lane, whose 120 mph winds and gigantic belly of rainwater threatened, as this was written, to blow and flood Oahu as we’ve never seen. Why haven’t we? Because the deep, cold water surrounding Hawaii has almost always protected us from hurricanes. But right now its surface temperature is 10 degrees above normal.

Hurricanes thrive on warm ocean water. It’s been 24 years since a hurricane this strong came within even 350 miles of us. Lane is just one example of the increasing extreme weather events breaking records monthly around the globe.

At least 37 U.S. cities have committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 or earlier, including Berkeley, Denver, Orlando, Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Jose and Spokane, and five cities have already converted to 100 percent renewable energy. Minneapolis is ahead of Honolulu. That’s embarrassing.

Faced with World War II — a small danger compared to climate change — no American said, “We can’t fight this right now. It’s too expensive and it’s not realistic.”

Every local leader has a moral obligation, and power, to help stop fossil fuel use.

Instead, factories retooled, people grew victory gardens, and housewives became riveters. Many items were rationed, banning their overuse. The effects were not the same on everyone, but everyone did what they could, without waiting. That’s how we won the war.

There are other reasons to set a goal far earlier than 2045. Our Pacific Island neighbors’ homes are already sinking. The nation of Kiribati, our closest neighbor, has already bought land so they can relocate their entire population before they sink below the waves for good.

Women’s suffrage, civil rights and many other issues have pushed politicians past their comfort point. People said it was too soon, too big a change, unrealistic. Where would we be now without the leadership it took to tackle those problems? Every local leader has a moral obligation, and power, to help stop fossil fuel use and transition to 100 percent renewable energy for all.

If you think 2045 is too far away, come to our rally this Saturday.

Just as Hawaii’s Little League Champions brought us a sense of hope when Hurricane Lane was bearing down on us, we must give hope to these all-stars and to their generation. They need to have a future that is livable, and they can, if we take the necessary steps to help stop climate disruption now.

We are encouraged that Governor Ige and Mayor Caldwell are attending the Global Climate Action Summit, being held in California on Sept. 12-14 to “Take Ambition to the Next Level.” They have both been aggressive on climate and are well aware of the urgency here, and the summit will reinforce that.

We hope that other City Council members and legislative leaders find their own courage on climate issues, and support an acceleration of Hawaii’s clean energy timeline rather than finding reasons to delay. Every city and local leader has been invited to make a commitment around the summit. Honolulu, of all places, should make one.

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