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Here and Now

August 27, 2009
Maui Weekly
Unfortunately, it turns out that global warming is real. Glaciers are melting, Antarctica and Greenland’s ice shelves are shrinking and the North Pole will be ice-free in just a few years. The last time I flew over Greenland, I saw the endless expanses of ice that will soon be seawater, covering Maui’s beaches.

Global warming was discovered 1890 and endlessly debated in Rio and Kyoto. Al Gore earned an Oscar and a Nobel Prize and the UN-chartered IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released the decisive studies two years ago. Their results? Global warming is happening fast and humans cause it. End of discussion, said Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What is our state contributing to global warming? Hawaiian Electric states on its Website: “Hawai‘i’s total production of greenhouse gas may be small, even on a per capita basis.” Is that true? A quick check of the numbers tells us that there are 112 countries that have less per-capita statistics than the state of Hawai‘i. While Sweden emits seven tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, Hawai‘i equals the U.S. with 19 tons. A two-ton limit per capita is sustainable.

Maui as a whole emits almost three million tons of carbon dioxide per year—not taking into account off-island emissions. A return flight to Los Angeles counts as two tons, from the East Coast or Japan, 4 tons. If we have two million visitors a year, their flights add around six million tons. In a sustainable world, 4.5 million people would emit as much as Maui does.

What were we thinking? Well, for a while we tried ignorance. Then disbelief. Exxon paid for disinformation. Politicians faked incompetence. That did not work. Moral: If a truck is heading your way, covering your eyes is not a good course of action.

The thinking of the ecological movement resulted in preaching the morals of energy scarcity. But we cannot stand to be preached to and so we bought really big cars and houses. Moral: Don’t use moral values to change the world.

Correct thinking starts with the realization that we must stop most oil and coal usage. There is no other option than clean energy, which can supply us with abundant, cheap power. It is our future and it is here now, if we want it.

Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy Maui LLC, consults with county and state governments in Hawai‘i to secure a quick transition to a clean energy future. He is also the chairman of South Maui Sustainability’s renewable energy committee.

His goal is to end oil use on Maui by 2020. He can be reached through or at 214-7678.


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