On March 28, 2018 a leaked email from the EPA emerged of 8 talking points intended to promote misinformation and uncertainty about climate science.
The email was sent under the subject line: “Consistent Messages on Climate Adaptation.”
“Consistent Teaching Points on Climate Change”: An open letter from University of Hawaiʻi Sustainability Scholars and Practitioners
In the “post-truth” era of “fake news”, teaching critical thinking about climate change is becoming more challenging, thus, we would like to respond to the EPA email, “Consistent Messages on Climate Adaptation” that was recently leaked to Huffington Post, generating a fresh round of dismay among scientists, teachers, and climate advocates.
The University of Hawaiʻi is committed to telling the truth about climate change. Students deserve to be presented with accurate information about anticipated climate change impacts to their futures from expert faculty across all academic disciplines; today it is even more important that we also teach media literacy, and equip students to successfully navigate the information age to discover truths for themselves.
We would like to respond to the EPA deceptive talking points with some “Consistent Teaching Points on Climate Change” that reflect our position as faculty, staff, and administrative signatories to the “We Are Still In” document supporting the Paris Climate Agreement.
EPA talking point:
The EPA recognizes the challenges that communities face in adapting to a changing climate.
UH teaching point:
Because of climate change in Hawaii a) Air temperature will rise, increasing heat stress on communities; b) Sea surface temperatures will rise, changing the composition and function of ocean ecosystems; c) Windward sides of the islands will be increasingly wet in the winter, with the trend most pronounced on Maui and Hawai‘i Islands; d) Ocean pH will decrease, making waters more acid and destructive to reef ecosystems; e) Sea level rise will accelerate, increasingly threatening coastal infrastructure and ecosystems, and accelerating the statewide trend of coastal erosion; f) In recent decades, higher elevation areas have warmed more rapidly compared to lower elevation areas.
EPA talking point:
EPA works with state, local, and tribal governments to improve infrastructure to protect against the consequences of climate change and natural disasters.
UH teaching point:
Building community resilience, sustainability, and capacity to adapt is the most effective and affordable pathway to prosper in the midst of a changing climate. Community actions should be data-based, critically evaluated, place-based, and thus respectful of and honoring a flourishing Hawaiian Culture. Hawaii will respond to climate change challenges by restoring healthy native ecosystems, fostering a locally focused economy without disparity, and a community bond that recognizes we are stewards of these islands with a kuleana to leave our children a happy healthy world in which they will thrive.
EPA talking point:
EPA also promotes science that helps inform states, municipalities, and tribes on how to plan for and respond to extreme events and environmental emergencies.
UH Teaching Point:
Science and engineering are systems of innovation and skepticism designed to recognize and reject bias. Repeated testing, incremental improvement, and flexibility to pivot to new realities must underpin our decision-making. Building community resilience should be built on a platform of applied modeling utilizing likely scenarios of the future emerging from local and global research.
EPA Talking point:
Moving forward, EPA will continue to advance its climate adaptation efforts, and has reconvened the cross-EPA Adaptation Working Group in support of those efforts.
UH Teaching point:
Adaptive resilience refers to the ability of individuals and communities to plan for and respond to climate-related impacts while developing new ways of thinking, being, and doing. New policies and programs promoting mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions must emerge at the same time we adapt to a changing climate. Individuals can take responsibility for reducing carbon in the atmosphere through personal choices and actions including using electric vehicles powered with clean energy, reducing air travel, increasing locally-grown fruit and vegetable consumption in place of industrial protein, eliminating food waste, having smaller families, favoring all forms of clean energy and mass transit. Governments can penalize carbon intensive activities and subsidize localized low-carbon economies. Hawaii can capitalize on our already recognized role as clean energy leaders by modeling to the world personal and institutional responsibility for building a healthy and vibrant world for our children.
EPA Talking point:
Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue. Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent debate on climate science.
UH Teaching point:
This statement by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is a deceptive falsehood based on a disregard for the facts and promulgated by fossil fuel executives focused on preserving a status quo that has made them rich. In 2007, on the basis of settled science, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide posed a threat to human health. The fictional “debate” about climate change is purposefully designed to sow doubt among a public who are led to believe that managing climate change will cost them their jobs and livelihoods. This is the exact tactic used by tobacco companies in fighting regulation of their deadly product. Climate change is real and dangerous, human land use (e.g., deforestation) and pollution (e.g., carbon dioxide emissions) are the cause. Bearing witness to the extinction of species and collapse of ecosystems in our lifetimes is psychologically traumatic, and exacerbated when facts are suppressed, or worse, when misinformation is disseminated by a corporate elite who do not value a healthy environment, elimination of economic disparity, public education, and the authority of truth. Open discussion of active, systemic solutions is urgently needed, and we encourage multiplicity of viewpoints that includes western science, indigenous epistemologies, and lived experience.
EPA Talking Point:
While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.
UH Teaching Point:
Extensive research has shown clearly that human activities are the cause of global climate change. In the past century and a half, global temperature has been caused to rise because of heat-trapping gases emitted by our use of fossil fuels. Scientific discussion centers around how to mitigate and adapt to the anticipated impacts of climate change; many of the solutions are small, simple actions that when acted upon as a community, can cause large-scale positive impact. Solutions such as adopting a plant-based diet, planting and conserving more trees, adopting energy-efficiency and renewable energy strategies are not only do-able, but are empowering and appealing to the next generation.
Hawaii’s young people deserve a lifestyle that promotes connections with nature, indigenous culture, community resilience, and opportunities to develop social capital and strong networks where they can contribute and thrive.
The University of Hawaiʻi Office of Sustainability supports and values our scientists, scholars, and practitioners across all academic disciplines. We place high value on community partners, cultural practitioners and informal educators who are teaching the difficult truths about climate change. This community of truth tellers is strengthening our communities’ resilience, and preparing students for the futures – with all of its problems and possibilities – that they will inherit.
“The opposite of good is not evil; the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
We Are Still In (The Paris Climate Agreement), and We Are Committed to teaching the difficult truths about climate change.
Krista Hiser, UH System Sustainability Curriculum Coordinator
Chip Fletcher, Associate Dean, UH Mānoa School of Science Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Professor of Geology and Geophysics
Matthew K Lynch, UH System Sustainability Coordinator
Monty Clark, Executive Director Sustainable Pacific Program
Maywa Montenegro, PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California-Berkeley
Travis Idol, Associate Professor
Silvia Sulis, MURP, MA Candidate – Dept. of Geography and Environment
Creighton Litton, Professor
Craig Nelson Assistant Researcher, Department of Oceanography and Hawaii Sea Grant
Wendy Meguro, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Buildings/Community Design
Seth Quintus, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Daniele Spirandelli, Assistant Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Sea Grant
Konia Freitas, Chair, Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies
Aida Arik, Graduate Student
Erin “Bear” Braich, Braich Masters Candidate, Urban and Regional Planning & Graduate Trainee, University of Hawaii Sea Grant College
Laura Mo, Graduate Student
Umeyo Momotaro, Student
Philip Johnson, Professor, Information and Computer Sciences
Manulani Aluli Meyer, Konohiki – Kulana o Kapolei @ UHWO
Philippe Binder, Professor of Physics, University of Hawaii – Hilo
Matthew Fernandez, Graduate Master’s Student at UH Manoa
Alejandro Salinas-Nakanishi, Instructor, Languages, Linguistics & Literature Dept., Kapi’olani CC
Nalani Minton, Asst Professor, SONDH, Dir ‘IKE AO PONO
Carl Polley, Instructor, Kapi’olani CC
Micah Fisher, Student
Daniela Elliott, Horticulture Instructor
Malachi Krishok, Masters Candidate, Urban and Regional Planning & Sea Grant Graduate Trainee
Ms. Maja Schjervheim
Makena Coffman, Professor of Urban Planning
Noelani Puniwai, Assistant Professor
Mark Hixon, Hsiao Endowed Professor of Marine Biology
Ms. Sita Om
Dolores Foley, Associate Professor
Harvy King, Student (WCC)
Dolan Eversole, Earth Protector
Tom Dinell, Emeritus Professor
Blaire Langston, Graduate Assistant
Peter Flachsbart, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
Trevor Fitzpatrick, Graduate Student
Alan Blumberg, Scientist
Cody Winchester, Coastal Researcher at the National Disaster Prepardness Traing Center
Thomas Barnes, Active Concerned Citizen, Retired Naval Officer, Academic
Flaminia Tumino, Former UH Graduate student
Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, Associate Professor
Rosanna ʻAnolani Alegado, Assistant Professor, Oceanography and Sea Grant
Yeonhee Kim, Lecturer
Wendy A. Kuntz, Associate Professor of Biology and Ecology
Isaac Heiser Mr
Ms. Jennifer Mavilia
Kimberly Carlson, Assistant Professor
Jan Becket, UH Alum, 1972, 1974
Ms. Angela Huntemer
Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law
Pat Lindquist, Speak truth based on scientific facts, not political aspirations.
Ana Bravo, Counselor
Jenny Webster, Instructor
Ariz Sanchez, Student
Sarah Wiebe, Assistant Professor
Toni Choy, Program Director, Surgical Technology