Planet808: All Hands on Deck in 2020

Jan 7, 2020

Over the last decade, people across the globe began to grapple with the effects of global warming.  Here in Hawai‘i, effects have ranged from wildfires to flooding and coral bleaching, with more frequent and intensified weather events.  In this edition of Planet808, climate change across the islands, HPR takes a look at the road ahead.

Charles “Chip” Fletcher is a Professor of Earth Science at UH Mānoa. He’s also Vice-Chair of the Honolulu Climate Change Commission and has recently published the second edition of his textbook, Climate Change: What the Science Tells Us.
Credit Chip Fletcher
Audio Pending...

“It really is an all hands on deck moment. The next few years are the most important in the history of humanity.”

That’s the considered opinion of climate scientist Chip Fletcher, author of Climate Change: What the Science Tells Us. Fletcher says if everyone on the planet had personally decreased their carbon footprint ten years ago, we might not be where we are today---that is, needing global, multilateral cooperation by governments and businesses.

“The current problem can only be solved by a combination of personal choices, plus, government programs and private sector programs all focused on the same thing, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and pulling carbon out of the atmosphere,” says Fletcher.

Climate scientists agree that job one is decreasing heat trapping greenhouse gas emissions. In Hawai‘i, that means pivoting away from fossil fuels for energy and using solar and other carbon neutral sources. We also need to prepare for more extreme weather events.

“We have come to this high level of living because we have polluted the atmosphere with fossil fuels,” says Fletcher, pointing out that less developed nations need time to progress via existing systems.

“A climate justice principal here,” Fletcher says, “Is that the developed world end our carbon emissions within a decade, thereby allowing developing nations more time in which to build hospitals, schools, and secure food and water systems while assisting them to make the conversion to renewable energy.”

“So in a nutshell,” Fletcher continues, “The developed world has to end our carbon emissions extremely rapidly then turn to assisting the developing world who can make a slower transition.  That is one principal of climate justice.”

Expect climate taxes or fees to come into our lives soon, based on a product or activity’s carbon footprint. According to Fletcher, climate scientists find carbon fees are powerful behavior modifiers, but need to be applied strategically to assure fairness.

After revising his text on climate change in 2019, Fletcher concludes, “We are not in a very good position as we move into the new decade. I recently returned from a trip to London, where I met with a number of very high level folks, private corporations, government types, folks in the judiciary, academia. They all had climate anxiety. They all have children. They all realize that we are on the edge of truly damaging the future for the next generation unless we take some dramatic steps."

"The reason we came together," says Fletcher, "Is that we are a group of professionals that want to brainstorm, What are the dramatic steps we can take that will solve this problem, and also be safe? There are trillions of dollars of investment potential, in other words, interested investors.”

Fletcher visited Principles for Responsible Investment in Paris, just one of the impact investment groups that perhaps offer a little hope?

As 2020 opens, a once inconvenient truth does look more like a climate emergency.