Lahaina disaster fueled by climate change, Gov. Green to tell UN

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Sep. 17—Gov. Josh Green today plans to tell a United Nations sustainability conference that the devastating Lahaina wildfire represents the world's current climate crisis and a dangerous future that requires unified action.

Gov. Josh Green today plans to tell a United Nations sustainability conference that the devastating Lahaina wildfire represents the world's current climate crisis and a dangerous future that requires unified action.

The Aug. 8 wildfire all but obliterated historic Lahaina reportedly in 17 minutes, according to Green, killing at least 97 people and displacing over 12, 000 others. It caused nearly $6 billion in damage.

From 1953 to 2003, Hawaii experienced just six fire disasters, "the same number we suffered last month alone, " Green says in prepared remarks.

Green attended the summit with Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth and youth from Kamehameha School's Ka 'amauloa Pathways pilot program that focuses on using Hawaiian Indigenous wisdom and sustainability to find local solutions to global problems, according to Green's office.

Here are excerpts :

"We are no longer anticipating the destructive effects of climate change—we are now fully enduring them, " according to Green. "Global temperatures continue to increase—with 2023 projected to be the hottest year in human history, and temperatures likely to rise even more over the next five years.

"Droughts all over the world have become more frequent, severe, and prolonged, and wildfires are growing in size, speed, and destructive power.

"This year we have seen deadly wildfires across the globe, in Algeria, Greece, the United States, and Canada—with the harmful air pollution produced by wildfire smoke extending far beyond the burned areas.

"This summer, smoke from nearly 900 wildfires burning in Canada triggered air quality alerts affecting up to 70 million people in the eastern United States.

"Meanwhile, our western states are grappling with the worst mega-drought in the past 1, 200 years, with the number of wildfires in the U.S. having tripled since the 1980's. ...

"Ocean temperatures are rising, melting our polar ice caps and glaciers and increasing average global sea level by eight inches over the last 150 years—and fueling stronger and more destructive hurricanes. ...

"Scientists are warning us that more than half of the world's marine species may stand on the brink of extinction by the end of this century—putting the ocean ecosystems and food chains that much of the world's population depend on for sustenance in danger of collapse.

"A hotter planet also means increased risk of pandemic diseases, famines, migrations, and the human conflict these stresses can cause. ...

"Let me state very clearly—there is no town, city, or human community on earth that is safe from the kind of extreme weather fueled by climate change that we experienced in Hawaii last month.

"We are in this together—we are all part of one interconnected and interdependent global community."

Green will call on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Summit to unite "around common global values, by coming together as one human family, and by holding ourselves and each other to a higher standard—a standard of transparency, accountability, and common purpose. ...

"We urge our friends and neighbors in the global community to join us in our commitment to renewable green energy systems, protecting and strengthening our energy grids, and investing in solutions and technologies that can help reverse climate change.

"Let me say again—we are all in this battle together, a fight for the future of humanity, and for life on earth as we know it.

"A struggle to protect our people from the destructive effects of extreme climate—which in a single, tragic day can change our communities, our cities, and our nations forever."

Green plans to return to Honolulu Wednesday. Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke is serving as acting governor in his absence.