‘Build Back Better’ Would Invest In Jobs, Infrastructure And Nature - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Anthony Ching

Anthony Ching is director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra.

Stephanie Dunbar-Co

Stephanie Dunbar-Co is climate and protection manager for The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra.

From rising seas and coral bleaching to drought, heat, flooding and fire, Hawaii is acutely feeling the impacts of climate change on our communities, coastlines, agricultural lands and watershed forests. Yet, Hawaii is at the forefront of climate action.

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When the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Hawaii was the first state to rejoin. At the 2016 World Conservation Congress, Gov. David Ige pledged to conserve 30% of our lands and waters by 2030.

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative set a goal to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2045. And this year, Hawaii’s State Legislature was the first to declare a climate emergency.

In Hawaii, we focus locally to contribute globally. Hawaii plays an important leadership role by addressing our vulnerabilities and setting ambitious goals to address climate change, but we cannot do it alone. It will take national and international investment to minimize the worst effects of climate change and keep warming at 1.5-2 degrees Celsius, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sixth assessment report.

Leaders at COP26 — or the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties, currently happening in Glasgow, Scotland — are urging countries to address the climate emergency by “ratcheting-up” the speed and scale of emissions cuts and implementing innovative, nature-based solutions. The people of Hawaii overwhelmingly agree that now is the time for bold, comprehensive action.

The pending Build Back Better legislation before Congress is a once-in-a-generation bill that would invest in jobs, infrastructure and nature. The legislation proposes a 10-year commitment to combatting climate change, improving health care, increasing educational opportunities and fostering economic growth — all things Hawaii voters want.

U.S. Capitol close up
The U.S. Capitol Building, where Democrats are trying to pass legislation to combat climate change, among many other ambitious goals. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2021

The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra recently commissioned a poll that asked registered voters their opinions about proposals in the Build Back Better legislation and specific provisions related to climate change.

The poll found that 89% of Hawaii voters acknowledge climate change is happening, 83% say it is human caused, 85% view addressing climate change as a national priority, 77% want their member of Congress to support the plan, and more than seven-in-10 want to see bold action on climate change, even if it requires significant federal funding. Voters ranked restoring coral reefs and forests nearly as important as health care and affordable housing.

This data demonstrates that the people of Hawaii are ready for this bill to be passed. They want action on protecting coral reefs and forests. They want programs that can address natural, economic, community and cultural needs across Hawaii.

Voters ranked restoring coral reefs and forests nearly as important as health care and affordable housing.

For example, our communities and natural resources would benefit from the proposed Civilian Climate Corps, which will build the next green workforce, strengthen community capacity for stewardship, and implement solutions to climate change impacts. The bill also contains investments in coastal and marine restoration and protection, conservation of endangered species in Hawaii, and climate resiliency and adaptation support for Native Hawaiian communities.

The time for the United States and the world to take climate action is now. Congress and the international community cannot lose this opportunity. With continuing local leadership, federal investment and international action, Hawaii will be well placed to thrive into the future as we collectively address the climate emergency.

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About the Authors

Anthony Ching

Anthony Ching is director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra.

Stephanie Dunbar-Co

Stephanie Dunbar-Co is climate and protection manager for The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii and Palmyra.

Latest Comments (0)

At the national scale, Build Back Better makes the fatal mistake of pouring enormous amounts into dead-end energy technologies: solar, wind, and battery-powered cars and energy storage, which have limited scalability and are destructive for the environment. In the short-term, investing in these technologies would indeed create jobs, reduce CO2 emissions, and look pretty good on paper. However, in a few years these technologies would hit multiple physical limits due to their intermittent nature, highly non-trivial grid requirements, and the exhaustion of certain minerals that they critically depend on.Completely neglected in Build Back Better is the development of new energy technologies for baseline load applications. Here, the only two options allowed by the laws of physics are nuclear fission (not today's use-once-and-bury nuclear, but nuclear with a closed-loop fuel cycle, which still requires much R&D) and thermonuclear fusion (plus related materials science). Unless we start massive investment in these technologies right now, we will certainly bankrupt the nation, and then destroy the civilization, the planet, or both.

Chiquita · 1 year ago

Hawaii is one of the very few places in the world that actually can, at a great but not insurmountable cost, switch to 100% clean energy on the timescale of 30-40 years. Unfortunately, this would be a drop in the bucket on the global scale and would change nothing about the rising ocean level. I would therefore strongly argue that Hawaii should spend zero taxpayer dollars on clean energy initiatives (they can pay for themselves) and instead direct taxpayer dollars at planning and executing a gradual retreat from the advancing coastline.

Chiquita · 1 year ago

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