J.Kalani English

Isle lawmakers critical of Trump's climate decision

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
June 2, 2017

By Sophie Cocke

Hawaii's Democratic congressional delegation quickly panned President Donald Trump's decision Thursday to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, describing it as sad, irresponsible, shortsighted and an abandonment of American leadership.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted, "Dear Trump administration: Please stop doing insane things. Signed, Future Generations."

Meanwhile, state and county political leaders emphasized that preparations are underway at the local level to curb carbon emissions and prepare for the environmental effects of a warming ocean, rising sea levels, dying coral reefs, increased rates of coastal erosion and altered weather pattern

Part of those preparations is a bill passed by the Legislature last month that requires the state to adopt certain provisions of the Paris agreement. The measure, which still needs Gov. David Ige's signature, was introduced in case Trump made good on his campaign promise to withdraw from the international environmental agreement.

"With our way of life here and across the Pacific being left vulnerable to sea level rise and climate change, we simply cannot leave our future in the hands of those who may be misinformed or misguided," Sen. J. Kalani English (D, Molokai-Lanai-East Maui), who introduced the bill, said in a news release.

Only two nations did not sign on to the Paris agreement, part of former President Barack Obama's environmental legacy: Syria, which is embroiled in a civil war, and Nicaragua, which said the accord didn't go far enough.

The agreement is legally nonbinding. Rather, more than 190 countries proposed emissions targets and pledged to do their best to meet them while providing periodic updates on their progress. Still, the agreement signaled a global political commitment to addressing the mounting environmental and economic threats brought by a changing climate.

In announcing his decision to withdraw the United States from the climate change agreement, a process that is expected to take four years, Trump said that it hurt American jobs and placed "draconian financial and economic burdens" on the country.

"This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States," Trump said. "The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement. They went wild, they were so happy, for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic advantage."

Trump emphasized that the decision was part of his "America First" agenda.

The president's decision aligns with other policies that he has outlined in recent months when it comes to climate change and the environment. In his 2018 budget, Trump has proposed eliminating the majority of funding that goes to climate change work within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a recent analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute. Trump's proposed budget also eliminates funding for Coastal Zone Management Grants, which are generally matched by states to manage coastal planning and permitting.

For Hawaii, Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, as well as slash other climate change programs, comes at at time when residents are seeing glimpses of the islands' future under rising sea levels. This past month, "king tides" engulfed beaches, smashed up against seawalls, caused flooding along streets in Waikiki and Mapunapuna, threatened coastal homes and left fish swimming in pockets of water along roadways. Scientists say residents should expect such high tides to occur more frequently in the coming years.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard noted that Hawaii is already experiencing the effects of climate change. For instance, Hawaii's 2015 hurricane season set a record of 15 tropical storms. In April the Honolulu Harbor tide gauge peaked at more than 9 inches above predicted tides, the highest daily mean recorded in more than a century.

"Without global action to drastically curb carbon pollution, climate change threatens the safety and security of the planet, especially in places like Hawaii where we are already experiencing its devastating effects," Gabbard said in a news release.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said the decision is a "sad statement that Republicans continue to refute science and the will of the international community on an issue of global importance."

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono called the decision "irresponsible, hasty and short-sighted."

"In Hawaii, we understand why it's important to take care of our land, ocean and air — our way of life depends on it," Hirono said in a news release.

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