Hawaii has a critical stake in how the nation responds to climate change.

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Nathan Eagle’s 2019 Civil Beat series “Hawaii 2040: Climate Change” described multiple ways climate change is expected to impact Hawaii.

One huge cause for concern is the likelihood of flooding due to rising sea levels. According to Eagle:

Sea levels had been expected to rise up to 3.2 feet globally by 2100, but the latest projections say this could happen as soon as 2060. … The value of all structures and land projected to be flooded by (that) rise … amounts to more than $20 billion. That doesn’t account for the compounding effect on tourism, the state’s main economic driver, and other industries.

Yet to reverse or mitigate climate change requires action on a much larger scale than our small state can accomplish by itself. We must look to Congress for help.

Unfortunately, congressional action is hampered by the influence of the fossil fuel industry, which contributed over $24 million to congressional campaigns just in the 2017-2018 election cycle.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — a state that shares the perils of rising oceans that we face here in Hawaii — asserts that the current lack of momentum on climate change is a direct result of changes in campaign financing stemming from the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which opened the floodgates for massive campaign contributions from corporations.

The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times, and it can be amended again to limit the role of money in politics.

Flickr: Travis Wise

According to a 2017 story in The New Yorker, he found Congress actively working on climate change when he first became a senator in 2007. But after 2010, the fossil fuel industry rapidly ramped up its campaign contributions and as a result, in Whitehouse’s view, it became politically dangerous to support climate change legislation.

Hawaii must do its part to fix corruption in Congress so that Congress can help stave off the effects of climate change that threaten Hawaii. Because the only authority in the land greater than the Supreme Court is the U.S. Constitution, the only real remedy to corruption is to add a 28th amendment to the Constitution to provide for free and fair elections.

How To Get There

There are two paths to a constitutional amendment.

One begins in Congress, but clearly we cannot expect Congress to take the initiative on campaign finance reform since the large donors who control Congress will obviously oppose reform. The other path begins with the legislatures of each state, which may initiate the amendment process by calling for a national convention.

The latter path has never been fully implemented, although state calls for a convention have played an important role in several amendments — most notably the Bill of Rights and the 17th Amendment — by prodding a reluctant Congress into taking action before enough calls to force a convention had accumulated.

Today, a movement is underway that makes use of this second path to press for an amendment to reform campaign financing. A concurrent resolution calling for a national convention to draft an amendment to restore free and fair elections has been passed in five states.

In Hawaii, the state Senate voted in favor of a resolution to that effect in both 2018 and 2019, but both times it did not receive a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

It is in Hawaii’s best interest to pass the Free and Fair Elections Resolution, because we need for Congress to take strong action on climate change, and that will only be possible when campaign financing has been reformed.

We must not allow ourselves to be deterred from passing the Free and Fair Elections Resolution by unfounded fears that a convention could undermine the U.S. Constitution. The writers of the Constitution built in checks and balances that enable states to enforce the agenda for which an amendment convention is called, and the ratification process ensures that proposals generated by a convention will not be enacted unless they enjoy very broad support.

It is in Hawaii’s best interest to pass the Free and Fair Elections Resolution.

Moreover, the most likely outcome of accumulating calls for a convention to address campaign finance reform is that, like convention calls on other issues in the past, they will prod Congress to propose an amendment themselves rather than allow a convention to take place. So long as the result is an amendment that provides for free and fair elections, the purpose of the resolution will have been served.

The perils of inaction on congressional corruption far outweigh the supposed risks associated with holding a convention. While we hold off on taking action, corruption in Congress continues to grow, and the dire consequences of climate change become ever more imminent, ever more severe, and ever more difficult to address.

Those consequences imperil Hawaii in a profound way. Therefore, Hawaii cannot afford to allow the situation to fester. We must act to fix Congress, now.

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