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Senators Schatz, Whitehouse, Warren and Markey Call Out Climate Denial Materials Sent to Teachers In Hawaii and Across the Country

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday to highlight misleading science materials sent by the Heartland Institute, a group with a long record of climate denial, to more than 300,000 public school science teachers in Hawai‘i and across the country.

Heartland’s 11-minute DVD and 135-page book, which are made to look like typical curriculum materials for science teachers, are explicitly designed to call into question the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Among other claims, they push teachers to “consider the possibility” that climate science is not settled and “students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists.”

“The Heartland Institute has disseminated ‘alternative facts’ and fake science at the behest of its industry funders for decades,” the senators wrote. “In the 1990s, it teamed up with Phillip Morris to challenge facts about the health risks of tobacco. The tobacco industry’s conduct was found to be fraudulent. Using the same strategies, with funding from the Koch family foundations, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel interests, the Heartland Institute now seeks to undermine the scientific consensus about climate change.”

The senators ask whether DeVos and her staff have had any contact with the Heartland Institute on science education. They also inquire whether the Department is working with Heartland in any capacity. DeVos has a history of donating to industry-funded front groups and just last week applauded President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“It is our sincere hope that neither White House staff nor Department of Education officials have turned to the Heartland Institute on the issues of climate change and climate science, or had any roll in this mailing to educators,” wrote the senators. “At your nomination hearing, you were asked whether you would stand on the side of students or with the political entities trying to force junk science into schools. You responded that you ‘support the teaching of great science and especially science that allows students to exercise critical thinking and to really discover and examine in new ways.’ We agree that ‘great science’ and critical thinking are cornerstones of a high-quality education, but that is not achieved with Heartland’s industry-funded and possibly fraudulent materials.”

Click to read full letter

Hawaii Governor Joins U.S. Climate Alliance, Will Sign Bill Aligned with Paris Agreement

Gov. David Ige today pledged to continue Hawaiʻi’s efforts to curb and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in alignment with the Paris agreement, and announced that he will join the newly formed United States Climate Alliance. In doing so, the governor hopes to share information and collaborate with other states that are also determined to fight global climate change.

The coalition was formed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

“It is clear that the states will play a larger role in taking action on environmental issues, and Hawaiʻi will continue to be a leader in this effort. What we do now for the future of Hawai‘i can make a global impact,” said Gov. Ige.

Gov. Ige also announced that on Tuesday, June 6, he will sign two bills that address the threat of global climate change:

  • SB 559 expands strategies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide in alignment with the principles and goals adopted in the Paris agreement.
  • HB 1578 establishes the Carbon Farming Task Force within the Office of Planning to identify agricultural and aquacultural practices to improve soil health and promote carbon sequestration in the state’s agricultural and aquacultural sectors.

“The Hawaii State Legislature understands the importance of taking action, and I applaud its work this session to ensure that we continue to deliver the island Earth that we want to leave to our children,” said Gov. Ige.

The governor’s Hawaii Sustainability Initiatives and the legislature’s actions are part of the Aloha + Challenge, Hawaiʻi’s statewide commitment to achieving integrated sustainability goals by 2030 for clean energy, local food, natural resource management, solid waste, smart sustainable communities and green education and workforce. Progress on this joint effort, which is aligned with the Paris agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is measured on the Aloha + Challenge Dashboard.

Hawaii Representative Lee on Trump’s Withdrawal from Paris Agreement

“The President’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement harms our island state most of all. Local progress replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy has already saved Hawaii a third of a billion dollars and reduced carbon emissions,” said Representative Chris Lee (D-51, Kailua, Waimanalo), chair of the House Energy & Environmental Protection Committee. “However, undermining action addressing climate change elsewhere means accelerating global warming and sea level rise that will more quickly erode our beaches, endanger coastal communities, diminish our fresh water supply, and expose our families to stronger and more frequent hurricanes at great cost to our people and way of life in the islands.

“We are currently working together with elected leaders in nearly a dozen other states such as California, Oregon, Washington, New York, and Minnesota to implement climate action plans that replace fossil fuels with renewable energy despite the President’s shortsighted decision.”

At the close of the 2017 legislative session Hawaii also passed House Concurrent Resolution 113 calling on all states and the federal government to take action and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, as well as House Bill 1578, which establishes a process for local farmers to receive carbon credit dollars for agricultural practices that sequester carbon dioxide, and Senate Bill 599, which doubles down on Hawaii’s commitment to coordinate state and county efforts to address climate change.

Hawaii Senator English Statement on Trump’s Decision to Withdraw From Paris Agreement

With President Trump’s decision today to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, the State is prepared to address climate change as it pertains to Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

The Hawaiʻi State Legislature this session passed SB559 SD1 HD2 CD1 which recognizes that climate change poses immediate and long-term threats to the State’s economy, sustainability, security, and way of life, and addresses the impact of climate change, one of the priority issues of the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader, Sen. J. Kalani English (Dist. 7 – Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Kaho‘olawe) introduced SB559 which funds the creation of the Hawai‘i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission and provides the State with a guide to planning and statewide implementation using the latest scientific analysis and risk assessment to monitor and forecast climate change impacts at the regional, state and local level.

“The effects of climate change are real, as seen primarily with sea level rise in the Pacific,” said Sen. English.  “The measure adopted relevant sections of the Paris Agreement as state law, which gives us legal basis to continue adaptation and mitigation strategies for Hawai‘i, despite the Federal government’s withdrawal from the treaty.”

“The bill was crafted in collaboration with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Academy (TBA21 Academy), which hosted a think tank in the Marquesas Islands, focused on climate change and cultural resiliency,” explained Sen. English. “With our way of life here and across the Pacific being left vulnerable to sea level rise and climate change, we simply cannot leave our future in the hands of those who may be misinformed and misguided.”

TBA21 is a globally recognized art institution based in Vienna, Austria. TBA21 announced their commitment to focus on the impact of climate change on the oceans at COP21 in Paris and met with scientists, policy makers, and local leaders at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu in September 2016.