In the face of the climate crisis, humans must take decisive climate action to limit global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we must limit warming to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid a climate disaster. If we allow heating to increase to just 2°C above pre-industrial levels, it is predicted that we will lose 99% of coral reefs (including many of the species that depend on them), billions of people will experience severe heat waves, sea levels will rise by another 10 cm (or 4 inches), and several hundred million more people will be at risk of poverty and climate disasters. If temperatures rise by 4-6°C, the ice caps will completely melt, sea level will rise 10 meters, large amounts of methane under the ocean will likely be shot into the sky, there will not be enough oxygen in the ocean to support much life, rainforests will become desert, and humans will be forced to migrate to the poles and colder regions, where crops still may not be able to be grown in the summers.
So, what must we do? According to the IPCC, in order to limit warming to below 1.5°C, nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and to net zero emissions by 2050, a target many nations have pledged to achieve in the Paris Agreement. From shifting energy and material feedstocks away from fossil fuels and toward renewable, or bio-based feedstocks, to reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions from animal agriculture and poor waste management, there is so much to be done to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, encouraging sustainable land management and investing in reforestation and carbon capture have the potential to help sequester carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
Hawaii has its own role to play in combating the climate crisis and has already taken several steps to do this. With targets of zero carbon emissions by 2045, Hawaii has already set up goals to reduce transportation emissions, plant more native trees, and adopt more sustainable land management practices. Hawaii also has a unique chance to rediscover how Native Hawaiian cultural and environmental practices can be used to tackle the climate crisis. From sustainable land and fisheries management to natural material usage and waste management, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) has great potential to help implement climate-smart agricultural practices such as using seaweed as compost to make soil more fertile, environmentally friendlier laws such as recognizing the rights of nature, and agricultural and energy self sufficiency. Watch the below video for an example of Yacouba Sawadogo using the indgenous zaï method of farming to reforest degraded and barren land in his home country of Burkina Faso.