Chad Blair: Goodbye COVID-19, Hello Climate Change
March 28, 2021 - Like thousands of Hawaii residents last week, I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. It was so encouraging to see so many folks lined up ahead of and behind me that I almost let go my frustration at seeing so many unmasked visitors in town for spring break (although happy for their business).
I think it’s fair to say there is a sense of optimism that, after a year of plague, the worst of the coronavirus may be behind us. I say this knowing full well that Hawaii returned to triple-digit cases this week, dangerous variants of the virus abound and much of the globe continues to suffer.
But the last 12 months has also fogged our perceptions as we pack on our “quarantine 15” pounds, scan Netflix for something new and remember those who fell sick and died.
The recent mass shootings on the mainland are a stark reminder that many great challenges never went away even as we went into collective lockdown.
Here’s what also didn’t go away: climate change, the greatest crisis of our times and a long-term threat to our planet. Consider this:
- The year 2020 ties with 2016 for the warmest year on record.
- The highest-ever daily average of carbon dioxide was pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere on Feb. 5.
- Dozens of people died and hundreds went missing when a Himalayan glacier broke and caused massive flooding in northern India on Feb. 7.
- A nearly 500-square-mile iceberg broke off from an Antarctic ice shelf last month.
- Hawaii is still more than 90% dependent on imported oil for our energy needs, or about one supertanker’s worth every 10 days.
- Crude imports to the islands in 2019 came primarily from nations — 57% from Libya and 34% from Russia — with difficult relations with the U.S.
There are so many more examples of the evidence of global warming and its consequences, from massive wildfires in California to beach erosion at Maui’s Puamana Beach exposing Hawaiian burials.
“Our minds have been occupied, obviously, with many other things — the economy, the pandemic,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation. “But we can’t forget that we do have this other crisis going on. The climate crisis has not abated just because we’ve been focused elsewhere last year.”