Hawaii State Legislature Declares Climate Emergency

Hawaii’s state Legislature became the first in the United States to pass a resolution declaring a climate emergency, looking to provide leadership for other states that want to take action on climate change. 

Hana, Maui, Hawaii. (Chris Marshall / CNS)

(CN) — Hawaii’s state Legislature became the first Thursday to declare climate change an emergency, reflecting growing concern among all levels of government about changing weather patterns as a result of human-driven climate change. 

Hawaii state legislators passed Senate Resolution 44 on Thursday, which declares a Climate Emergency in the state and recognizes climate change as an existential threat to humanity and the world. 

The legislation was introduced by State Senator Mike Gabbard, a Democrat, and was unanimously approved by the 25-person Hawaii Senate. There is only one Republican in the state senate at present. There are four Republicans in the lower chamber, the 51-seat House of Representatives, and only one of them voted for it. 

“I’m stoked that the Legislature took this action to declare the climate emergency,” said Senator Mike Gabbard during a Thursday press conference. “This makes us the first Legislature in our country to do so and it’s very important to the state’s leadership nationally and internationally. “

Gabbard noted that Hawaii was the first state to pledge to be fully powered by renewable energy by 2045, adding that 16 other states have since made similar pledges. 

While Hawaii is the first state legislature in the nation to declare a climate emergency, about 144 local jurisdictions throughout the country have passed similar resolutions. 

Internationally, the number of governments that have passed such resolutions is close to 2,000 and includes the parliaments of many prominent nations like Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain and Vatican City. 

Hawaii’s resolution says the state must commit “statewide action that is rooted in equity, self-determination, culture, tradition, and the belief that people locally and around the world have the right to clean, healthy, and adequate air, water, land, food, education, and shelter.”

The resolution further recognizes that Hawaii’s unique island ecosystem is fragile and dependent on favorable island conditions to foster ecological diversity and continue to make the island hospitable for its numerous residents. 

The recently passed bill was sponsored by state Rep. Lisa Marten, a Democrat, who said the bill was a necessary first step for Hawaii and other states around the country. 

“Hawaii is the first state to join a movement largely led by cities and counties to declare a Climate Emergency which reflects the commitment our state legislature continues to make to address the causes and the impacts of Climate Change,” she said. 

Sherry Pollack, the co-founder of the climate activist group Hawaii 350, said the declaration was a necessary step to prompt businesses, nonprofits and the public sector to collaborate in providing solutions. 

“We are not talking about some future abstract threat,” Pollack said. “Climate change is already here. But we have a window of hope if we act boldly now.”

While there is near-universal scientific consensus that the climate is warming as a result of greenhouse gases generated by fossil fuel emissions, there is less certainty about whether it presents an existential threat to humanity. 

Many climate prognosticators agree that if emissions do not decline, temperature rise could alter weather patterns significantly, causing global instability, war, famine and the increase in intensity and frequency of natural disasters. 

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