The news on the climate front continues to get worse. We had at least one day in February when Antarctica was warmer (65 degrees) than many places on Maui. Melting glaciers and polar ice caps will trigger an accelerating increase in carbon dioxide and global temperatures.
Hawai‘i has to do its part to reach carbon neutrality – stop releasing more net greenhouse gases that capture heat in the atmosphere – by shutting down all fossil fuel plants (Kahului and Ma‘alaea on Maui), replacing ground transportation with electric or other zero-emission vehicles, improving public transportation and replacing inter-island traffic with more efficient and ultimately zero-carbon-emitting means of travel. More local production of food and other goods for consumption in Hawaii will reduce the need for shipping, which is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Limiting tourism to sustainable levels would dampen the continued growth in flights.
However, air and sea transport to and from Hawaii will continue to generate very large amounts of greenhouse gases for years beyond when the steps above have been taken, and we have an accumulated carbon debt which will take even longer to pay off. We have to also invest in removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
There are new technologies in the works that may help, but there is one established technology that has been around since before the industrial revolution, before man, before any animal life: photosynthesis. Plants consume CO2 and water with the help of sunlight and produce oxygen. Trees are champions in that they can continue to do this work for dozens or hundreds of years once they get started.
Unfortunately, the increase in CO2 emissions has been paralleled by continuous destruction of forest areas on the planet – 15 billion trees per year according to one article, with only 5 billion replanted. Most of this is due to expansion of industrial agriculture and logging.
We can do better, much better! Lā Ho‘oulu Pae Moku – ReTree Hawaii – is a campaign to plant trees (and other plants) in every region of every populated Hawaiian island on October 30, 2020. Find how how you can be part of the solution: