We must act now on climate change

The debate over what Big Oil knew about climate change — and when — has very real ties to our local fossil-fuel industry. Shell, Texaco and BP are local fossil-fuel providers that helped to fund the climate-denial “science” that has derailed efforts over the last 30 years to show fossil fuels to be the primary cause of climate change.

Internal documents reveal that scientific models delivered to fossil-fuel executives in the 1960s predicted today’s global temperatures with astonishing accuracy. But instead of acting morally and leading the world to an alternative-energy future, these industry executives launched one of the most effective disinformation campaigns in history — and certainly the most consequential.

In 1959, physicist Edward Teller gave the petroleum industry the first warning of the dangers of global warming, at a Columbia University symposium. Teller described the need to find energy sources other than fossil fuels to mitigate these dangers, stating, “a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 percent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the ice cap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and … a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions.”

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (Shell) published a report in 1988 that recommended the consideration of policy solutions to climate change as soon as possible. But by 1994 their reports pivoted to the theme of scientific uncertainty, noting that “the postulated link between any observed temperature rise and human activities has to be seen in relation to natural variability, which is largely unpredictable.”

Shell, Texaco, and dozens of other “carbon majors” joined in funding the American Petroleum Institute and a slew of faux think tanks like the “Global Climate Coalition” to manufacture a message of uncertainty, aimed at undermining the scientific consensus on global warming. It helped to kill any chance of meaningful action to address the problem.

Had these climate polluters acted responsibly when they first concluded climate change “will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the earth’s population),” we would have a far-less-daunting task ahead of us. But they did not. So now we must act with all the force government can muster to address this crisis.

Like the Roman god Janus looking both forward and back, Hawaii must quickly adapt to unavoidable future impacts without losing sight of how we got here. Dozens of oil and gas companies like Exxon, Shell and Texaco, created this mess. They need to help us clean it up.

And time is short. We are already seeing extreme weather events, rising seas and warming temperatures, drastically reduced fishponds and freshwater availability, with a significant effect on aquaculture in the state — an important source of sustenance, jobs and economic growth in the islands. And we know the impacts we have seen on Kauai with the deluge of 2018.

Warming is degrading ocean ecosystems around the islands. Between 1999 and 2012 rising ocean temperatures killed 36% of cauliflower coral around Hawaii. That figure is expected to rise dramatically by 2050. This will take an enormous toll on ocean biodiversity and on our tourism and recreation industries, as scuba divers spend $520 million in Hawaii each year.

Coral-reef ecosystems are vital for local subsistence, tourism and coastal protection. Without them, Hawaii’s coastline will erode over time. According to the fourth National Climate Assessment, in a ‘worst-case scenario,’ sea-level rise across the state by 2060 would flood or erode nearly 550 Hawaiian cultural sites, chronically flood 38 miles of major roads, and render more than 6,500 structures and 25,800 acres of land located near the shoreline unusable or lost, displacing approximately 20,000 residents. And it could be worse.

The impacts of climate change put critical Hawaii infrastructure, homes and lives in peril.

The country and state are flush with climate solutions, but nearly devoid of chances to deploy them, because oil and gas companies still operate with impunity in spite of their clear responsibility for the current crisis.

Hawaii’s political leaders can take action right now to hold these companies accountable by filing suit against their campaign of deception and misinformation to local customers and policymakers.

The Honolulu County Council voted unanimously last week to sue Big Oil to help secure funds that will be needed to build resilience, address damage done and take positive steps towards mitigation.

Kauai can join this lawsuit and reap the benefits at little expense to our own pocketbook but will need the support of our county attorneys.

Climate change is the existential challenge of our time. It is also an unprecedented opportunity to transform our economy and lead the world toward a more just and sustainable future. Using the court system to legitimately hold the bad actors to account is one more thing we can do to bring us closer to a brighter future.

•••

Laurel Brier is an Anahola resident.

21 Comments
  1. hutch November 25, 2019 12:19 am Reply

    More nonsense from the Climate Doomsday Cult. Here’s an article from this past May in the Honolulu Star Advertiser predicting 5 to 8 tropical cyclones for the Pacific over the last few months. There wasn’t even one. Chicken Little, please go home, take a shower, and relax!

    https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/05/22/breaking-news/live-stream-noaa-announces-outlook-for-2019-central-pacific-hurricane-season/


  2. Bluedream November 25, 2019 12:34 am Reply

    What complete nonsense. So this women “states” that there was a corporate scheme since the 1950’s to deny data that supports climate change? Hmm, I remember the same doom criers mulling on about the earth going cold and dark in 77. Anyway, it is clearly bs because it’s an issue that is political and keeps going back to carbon taxes and it not at all “science”.


  3. alien November 25, 2019 5:49 am Reply

    So I am sure you live off the grid, walk everywhere you go, buy nothing that has any plastic, make your cloths at home to avoid shipping and industrial pollution ect…. probably not just a finger pointer punching keys on a toxic devise.


  4. Charlie Chimknee November 25, 2019 8:25 am Reply

    This article on Big Oil, while it enlightens us further as to the “Profit Over Planet” apparent scheme and ignore “side effects” of Big Oil, hardly anyone blinks an eye when they get in or on their car, truck, motorcycle, or take a plane, train, or ship to travel; much less consider how commerce depends on trucks, planes, trains, and ships, and that does not include fuel used to heat homes and buildings worldwide that are certain distances north and south of the Equator, though running A/C, Air Conditioning, in the warm zones is another huge amount of oil, petroleum, being used for comfort and an addition to fossil fuel pollution and climate change on our planet…the only planet we got.

    Petroleum from oil wells and coal mines is called Fossil Fuels, the reason being is that petroleum comes from ocean fossils (ancient plankton) that eventually makes petroleum, oil, gasoline, other fuels, and eventually remade into plastics, Agricultural poisons, fertilizers, paints, medical drugs both Prescription and Over the Counter, as well as the chemicals added to our packaged, canned, and bottled foods and drinks, and even synthetic vitamins that “ain’t worth a hill of beans”. That’s an old saying because actually a hill size of beans is worth a lot of nutrition.

    Ancient ocean plankton and land forests that lived a 100 million to 250 million years ago are what becomes petroleum from oil wells and coal mines, and subsequently become modern fossil fuels and plastics and petrochemicals that make agriculture poisons to kill weeds and bugs, and at the same time poison our food that we then eat…and the medicines made from these same Petrochemicals give us cancer and other diseases as side effects from what they do inside of our bodies. Yes they are all dangerous…!

    So while you move around town or the planet with fossil fuel petroleum, gas, and oil, you are also by eating food and taking medicines you are poisoning yourself and dying earlier than God intended. Technically you are “breaking the rules” of Nature, and the punishment is disease, some of which is Cancer.

    As the author of this article speaks to, Big Oil should have been looking for Fossil Fuel alternatives generations ago.

    Is that what Elon Musk, and others are doing in solar energy for Houses and cars and trucks. That’s a good start if there are no destructive human or planet side effects.

    Poisons in agriculture and in our food and medicines is preventable. However, medical services in America alone account for $4 Trillion a year, and growing more each year, that’s income to the medical people mainly hospitals, doctors and staff. Just about 6 top selling medical drugs alone have just Americans only buying about $100 Billion dollars a year in those 6 drugs, and there are hundreds of drugs out there and what if we were to count worldwide sales of all drugs…

    …and with 80% of just Americans on drugs…???…we need a new Health Care System, one based on Actual Health and not HELLth, one where we wean ourselves off medication and instead participate in lifestyle, diet, and activities that = HEALTH.

    While we need time and invention to curtail fossil fuels in transportation, we can abruptly change what we are eating by our Demand at the stores of what we buy and make a much more rapid change away from cancer, sickness, disease, and early death…a losing out on our God Given Potential for Optimal Longevity of Healthy, Active, Vibrant, Years on Earth…Human Health leading to making our Planet itself Healthier.

    If people like Elon Musk are helping us to harvest solar energy with new technologies, what if he and others of invention ability, die early from food and medicine caused disease and cancers, and the earth and it’s peoples we lose a needed evolution away from polluting ourselves, and the air, waters, and land; Losing early in their lives people who can produce needed alternatives to the way things are going now will make things only get worse.

    It’s time now to reverse and stop the Satanic profit driven insanity of huge corporations like the Oil Companies for transportation and Petrochemicals in the food and drug industries and develop alternatives.

    Ask your doctor to throw away the prescription pad and stop the Disease causing side effects those drugs produce.

    We deserve better from those in charge.

    After all we are supposed to be Intelligent Beings. The time wasted arguing, indicting, and impeaching Democrats and Republicans is time wasted not taking care of our planet and its passengers, us, the humans, plants and animals.

    The mere fact of Having 2 main political parties smacks of all of us being used in a Divide and Conquer tactic, while Big Corporation run us into the ground…literally…6’ Under.


  5. RG DeSoto November 25, 2019 9:08 am Reply

    Run for your life…the sky is falling. But not to worry, Brier and her fellow travelers will save the day by reversing geologic processes that have been operating for 4.5 billion years. Of course this effort will fail and still requires a massive waste of resources. But don’t tell the scientifically illiterates this…they’ll just call you a “denier”.
    In the end these naive and fruitless efforts will accomplish only one thing: impoverishment of the vast majority of people. Of course the political elites & their crones, as in all socialist/communist systems, will not suffer at all.
    My advice to Brier and her fellows: get a good book on the geologic history of the earth and learn something.
    RG DeSoto


    1. Desotoisanidiot November 25, 2019 3:42 pm Reply

      Maybe you should learn what geologists study before saying switching to renewable resources would somehow help socialists or communists. You throw around talking points you don’t even understand. Do you collect social security? Then you are a socialist. China is a communist country and they benefit from a fossil fuel ran energy system. Seems like you need to lay off the Fox “News” and maybe not write stupid things like most of the nuts on the comments here.


      1. RG DeSoto November 26, 2019 3:44 pm Reply

        Nice ad hominem! BTW: afraid to use your real name?
        I said that people like you and Brier want to use government FORCE to achieve so called “sustainable/renewable” energy to save the earth from the evil CO2 & petroleum energy. Government forcing people to do what they would not otherwise choose to do is definitely the hallmark of socialism–whether communist or fascist.
        And, FYI I have extensively read books and research papers on geologic processes. You have your head planted firmly in a dark place if you think that we humans can alter geologic process. Why don’t you explain to us how the ice ages ended and the planet warmed considerably before humans even existed.
        Try reading this for starters…you may learn something:
        Origins: The Evolution of Continents, Oceans and Life Hardcover – September 15, 2001
        by Ron Redfern
        Or check out how the earth’s atmospheric temperatures have shown a downward trend-line for the last 8000 years. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Holocene_Temperature_Variations.png
        RG DeSoto


    2. Charlie Chimknee November 25, 2019 7:50 pm Reply

      RG, it doesn’t take geologic history to see the epidemic of medical drug reactions, and the deluge of cancers, obesity, diabetes, heart and stroke disease along with Dementia, just watch the lawyer ads on TV on the one hand and the drug company ads on the other hand. Diagnosis followed by drug and surgery treatments are a modern early death trap. Don’t put your foot in it…! ! !


      1. Chimkneeisanidiottoo November 25, 2019 10:49 pm Reply

        What are you talking about? Not everything is a conspiracy theory. You know what causes cancer? THE SUN. First off, the article has nothing to do with the gibberish conspiracy nonsense you are talking about. Second, no one wants to hear it. I’m sure I’m not the only one tired of seeing your inane comments pop up on every article posted online be it about the government, or a simple article about puppies.


  6. Hans Roeger November 25, 2019 9:11 am Reply

    Here is a plan. Government should heavily tax gasoline, coal, propane and with the revenue crated then subsidize solar, wind energy, and electric vehicles. The only flaw is the willingness of the people. Most will resist and government will need to act like the future of the planet is at stake. Because it is. In other words, the government will need to legislate laws that may be unpopular. Can we do it in time?


  7. MikeV November 25, 2019 12:13 pm Reply

    Suing the oil companies will not change the weather. This is proof it’s all about the oil companies and not the planet. No science in the article just handpicked statistics. Climate change means anything and nothing.


  8. doug henry November 25, 2019 1:38 pm Reply

    281 record high temperatures in Hawaii so far this year; enough said.


    1. RG DeSoto November 26, 2019 7:33 am Reply

      Doug: you need to learn the difference between weather and climate before opening your mouth and inserting your foot.
      RG DeSoto


  9. MisterM November 25, 2019 2:26 pm Reply

    Sigh.NY just had their Big Oil lawsuit tossed for being absurdly ridiculous – but that doesn’t stop this author from wanting Kauai to sue and waste more taxpayer money. Maybe Ms Brier would tell us what bicycle she rides, what food she grows, and how fast her made-of-reeds boat goes (she can’t ever take a flight because how incredibly damaging it is, right?) Because surely she walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk?


  10. Everythingisawesome November 25, 2019 7:31 pm Reply

    “fossil fuels to be the primary cause of climate change.”

    The star at the middle of our solar system is the primary cause of climate change.


  11. manawai November 26, 2019 7:43 am Reply

    Desotoisanidiot said, “Do you collect social security? Then you are a socialist.”

    That is utter bull. I’ve paid into S.S. all my adult life and am now collecting it back. That is my (government forced) investment for retirement assistance. MY OWN MONEY! Just because I choose to collect my own money doesn’t make me a socialist. I hope the IOU’s in the S.S. fund will still be honored. Do I trust the government not to screw up our finances?” They already have! Look at the national debt! How long can you go spending more than you make?


  12. Dawn Morais Webster November 26, 2019 9:16 am Reply

    Calling someone a “troubled woman” is an unwarranted personal slight that diminishes the attacker, not the one attacked. It also only points to the urgency of her argument that so rattles those wedded to the fossil fuel industry and its history of lies and obfuscation. At the HI People’s Congress this past weekend, speakers from across the islands made the point that it is not just about embracing the spirit of the Green New Deal but of centering our local solutions to the climate crisis in time-tested indigenous practices that allowed people to feed and support their families before the plundering “profit first” practices of big business disrupted what were truly self-sustaining communities. Hawaii needs to rediscover and apply what Walter Ritte called the “ancient green deal”–the wisdom of the kupuna who knew how to care for the land and the ocean.


  13. rk669 November 26, 2019 2:15 pm Reply

    2 things for Certain in this world,Death and Taxes! Get over it!


  14. Charlie Chimknee November 26, 2019 9:47 pm Reply

    How quick some people are to criticize Laurel for her informing the public, the entire issue of global warming revolves around the abuse of petrochemicals, when petrochemicals pollute the air they form an atmospheric screen that has several negative impacts on earth. You can see the result of air pollution by looking across the street of any huge air polluted city and even better try flying in to same cities from enough miles out to enjoy crystal clear skies and then begin to submerge on descent into the yellow mustard looking air pollution, dense and more dense into decent. And you are going to have to breathe it upon arrival.

    Not a problem you say…? Why are some people wearing masks in inner cities polluted with petrochemicals in the air, you know th estufa coming out of your exhaust pipe…carbon monoxide…deadly…try deny that and see who laughs at you.

    But here is the point you naysayers are missing, air pollution, the global warming factor, is just the tip of the iceberg of abuse of petrochemicals. You see, what you can’t see is toxic poison petrochemicals in water, whether a stream, a lake, an ocean , or kitchen sink drinking water, of which Kaua’i alone has over 1/2 a dozen cancer causing chemicals in some of our water and that does not include the RoundUp factor of the Westside.

    Petrochemical poisonous abuse is more and more happening worldwide as farmers and corporation spray crops to kill bugs, weed, and to dry crops out prior to an easier harvest. Our sugar plantations used petrochemicals to dry out the cane foliage prior to burning it wherein the paraquat’s poisonous toxicity increased 10 fold by being burned as the fields were burned at night while we slept inhaling the fumes.

    Petrochemical abuse is rampant on the modern seed plantations of Kaua’i, foreign corporations not allowed to grow seed with Petrochemical poisons in their own country use our sacred home to violate our trust and hoodwink the naysayers and we become the victims of petrochemical abuse and people at ground zero suffer and will suffer the most, let’s hope Tourism does not find out.

    Petrochemical abuse is spread further from the farm when it, the petrochemicals are added to our foods of every kind, flavor, color, aroma, and taste. The food is as synthetic as plastic is, in fact the food is really a form of toxic plastic and cancer causing. Read your labels, the joke is on you the naysayers as it is in a foreign language…science words. for example, thiamine mononitrate…oil as food, what a joke to play on your worst enemy. Look it up made from Petroleum. Would you spray your sandwich with WD-40…?

    And when you get sick, which apparently you may be, check your medicine cabinet and see what petrochemicals you are eating every day as 1 of the 80% of Americans on petrochemical toxic medicines whether prescription or over the counter, toxic because they are giving you side effects and you feel lousy, huh…?

    Yep, Global Warming is just the tip of the iceberg, your bodies are being abused by petrochemicals right under your very noses in your clothes, food, medicines, air, water, the farm lands saturated in Petrochemicals, and plastics of every kind. And you’ve been lied to about it and the naysayers believe the lies about the safety of petrochemicals, not understanding serious the poison petrochemicals are over the accumulation of decades of exposure to them… how long You been a believer that no one would intentionally harm you…well except for profit….huh…? If you are short sighted it’s hard to put the blame something that usually takes 30, 40, or 50 years to kill you though in developing children it can take less than a decade.

    When you were a kid you were lied to and believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy…has something changed now that you are older and accustomed to believing in baloney…?

    So you Blind faith believers as naysayers are you one of those trapped in the medical medical diagnosis treatment of drugs or surgery. You can get back to Nature…it just takes thinking and education…read on…!


  15. hutch November 26, 2019 11:48 pm Reply

    Charlie Kimknee: just to let you know that your comments are too long for anyone to read, let alone care about. I waded through one of them (it took me five minutes and I still couldn’t decipher it) and so now when I see your name, I just keep scrolling. I doubt I’m the only one. Short and to the point, Charlie.


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