Consequences of global warming demand passage of bill
Legislation to limit greenhouse gases to check global warming is set for a vote tomorrow.
THIS small state has an opportunity to take a big step tomorrow when the Legislature votes on a bill to place enforceable limits on pollution that causes global warming, a real threat to Hawaii's people, economy, natural resources and environment.
The bill goes hand in hand with established state policies to boost development and use of renewable, clean energy sources, and the public's growing efforts toward conservation and fuel efficiency.
Lawmakers should not hesitate to approve the measure.
Despite critics' claim that an endeavor of a group of tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean won't amount to much, the global task of reducing greenhouse gases can be achieved only through each community's actions.
Moreover, since leaders of the countries that generate the most greenhouse gases -- the United States and China -- have balked at signing on to international strategies for limits, pressure to adopt policies can be brought to bear through incremental means.
As states like California set enforceable pollution boundaries, industries tied to the petroleum economy, such as electricity and utility companies and automakers, are forced to deal with differing laws. Many will seek or already are seeking consistent regulation by the federal government. While the current administration might not be responsive to the public's environmental concerns, it listens closely to the voices of its economic constituents.
The bill before the Legislature recognizes that global warming would be damaging to Hawaii, affecting large-scale weather systems, micro-climates that support unique plants and animals, aquifers that supply drinking water, agricultural lands, ocean ecosystems and coastal zones that house the tourism industry.
Patterned after California's law, the bill would require reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at or below 1990 levels by the year 2020. By the end of 2008, state agencies will have identified sources or categories of greenhouse gases. The measure sets up a task force to prepare by December 2009 a plan and regulations that are feasible and cost effective.
While vehicle and utility discharges are covered, airplane emissions aren't, reflecting the tourism industry's and the state's economic needs, even though air travel contributes to increases of greenhouse gases in the higher atmosphere.
There is some concern that regulating greenhouse gases will hurt Hawaii's economy, but reducing the state's near-complete dependence on imported fossil fuel, the rootstock of pollution, and converting energy production to indigenous, renewable sources will keep in the islands money that now flows elsewhere.
As everyone who lives or does business here knows, Hawaii's energy costs are the highest in the nation. Much higher, however, will be the price we'll pay if we do not curb harmful climate change.