Hawaii has become the first state to pass a law committing to the goals set by the Paris climate agreement. The act rebels against President Donald Trump, who announced the US was ditching the global agreement last Thursday.
Governor David Y Ige signed two bills in Honolulu on Tuesday alongside a handful of the state’s mayors. The move aims to keep Hawaii in line with the targets set by the Paris agreement, a comprehensive climate agreement signed by 174 countries and the European Union that pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming "well below 2 degrees Celcius" [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit].
One of the bills, SB 559, builds on plans and strategies to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with levels agreed on in the Paris agreement. The other bill, HB 1578, sets to establish a “Carbon Farming Task Force” to identify and study agricultural and aquacultural practices and its effects on soil and air quality.
“Many of the great challenges of our day hit us first and that means that we also need to be first when it comes to creating solutions," Ige said at a live-streamed press conference from Honolulu. “We are the testing grounds. As an island state, we are especially aware of the limits of our environment. We see the impacts of our actions very close to home.”
“Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” Ige stressed.
Countless scientific studies back this up. An overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that human activity is leading to climate change – the most commonly cited figure is 97 percent, based on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.
In terms of Hawaii, numerous studies have shown that the island is under massive threat from rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and extreme weather. Along with billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure, these rising temperatures will also lead to further declines in the island’s wildlife.
While Hawaii is the first state to legally defy Trump’s decision, other states have also taken a stand. This week, California signed an agreement with China to work together to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The governors of Washington, New York, and California have also formed a Climate Alliance that assures they stay committed to the Paris agreement. Six other state governors – Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Hawaii – have since joined this alliance, with others expected to follow suit.