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Three divers with clipboards underwater hover around bleached corals.
Hawaii Science divers documenting coral bleaching © David Slater

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Hawai‘i Voters Overwhelmingly Support Build Back Better Act, Budget Reconciliation and Climate Change Action

A  recent survey found that Hawai‘i voters across political, ethnic, and demographic groups support the federal Build Back Better Act/Budget Reconciliation package. They also specifically support climate change action.

The survey found that nearly three-quarters of respondents support proposals in the bill, and 77% say they want their Member of Congress to support it. Voters view climate-related policies, from reef and forest restoration to helping communities prepare for natural disasters, as very important and on par with health care.

The poll, commissioned by The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation nonprofit, was conducted among 500 registered voters in Hawai‘i between September 22-26, 2021, by New Bridge Strategy. The margin of error is +/-4.38% at the 95% confidence level. Due to rounding, not all totals will sum to 100%.

“The results are clear,” says Ulalia Woodside, the Executive Director for The Nature Conservancy, Hawai‘i and Palmyra chapter. “The people of Hawai‘i not only understand that climate change is occurring, but they are being impacted and want their elected officials to take action now.”

Eighty nine percent of Hawai‘i voters acknowledge climate change is happening. Eighty three percent say it’s human caused. More than seven in ten want to see bold action on climate change. Other key findings include: 

  • 85% view addressing climate change as a national priority.
  • 78% say transitioning to more clean energy sources and reducing carbon pollution is a good investment of taxpayers’ money.
  • 71% agree with the statement that “we cannot afford to continue to delay on policies that will help address climate change. Now is the time to take bold action, even if it means significant government spending in the short-term.”
  • 79% feel making industries (including oil, natural gas, energy, and fuel companies) pay a fee based on the amount of carbon pollution they produce is an acceptable way to fund the bill.

These findings are consistent with and build upon the results of a June 2020 poll TNC commissioned from Ward Research. It found that voters are “extremely” or “very” concerned about the impacts of climate change—such as coral reefs dying off (73%), reduced freshwater supplies (62%), record-breaking heat (61%), coastal flooding and erosion (56%), droughts (52%) and rising sea levels (50%)—and more than 75% of residents support a range of state action to adapt and respond to these threats. The 2020 poll included 724 Hawai‘i voters with a +/-3.5% margin of error at the 95% confidence level.

“In Hawai‘i, we understand the inseparable link between our own and nature’s well-being and the need to act now to address climate change,” says Woodside. “At the federal level, the Budget Reconciliation package is a rare opportunity to take action and invest in the environment and communities. Although Hawai‘i is at the forefront of climate action, we cannot do this on our own. We need large scale, systemic change coming from the federal government to invest in these efforts, and the Reconciliation Bill should do just that.”

If passed, the Budget Reconciliation bill could help invest in the environment and communities with substantial funding over ten years in programs in Hawai‘i and across the United States. In particular, the Reconciliation bill could contain provisions aimed at fighting climate change on both a systemic and local level. These include expanded clean energy tax credits, and significant funding for marine and coastal restoration and adaptation to climate change, and the conservation of endangered species in Hawai‘i.

The Reconciliation package also proposes a Civilian Climate Corps, which will deliver workforce training, career development and implementation of much needed clean energy, disaster resilience, wildfire risk reduction, ecosystem restoration, and parks maintenance work throughout the nation.

“People and organizations across Hawaiʻi are already working to address the impacts of climate change, but we need the kind of funding and support that the Civilian Climate Corps could provide,” says John Leong, Kupu's Co-founder and CEO. "Building the next green workforce is critical not only to mitigate climate change, but also to unlock the potential of future generations." 

“We’re fortunate that our Hawai‘i delegation is largely supportive of climate action that will bring us jobs, help reinforce our infrastructure, fund conservation efforts, and implement climate mitigation solutions that support nature, among other initiatives,” says Woodside.

Although the majority of people in Hawai‘i and across the U.S. are concerned about climate change, less than half talk about it. TNC recently released the video Let’s Talk Climate, underscoring the urgency for everyone to talk to their legislators, family and friends about nature-based solutions and climate change efforts in the state. “We can’t solve a problem we don’t talk about,” said Woodside, “and we must seize this once-in-a-decade opportunity to enact major federal legislation to fight climate change.”

ABOUT TNC: 

The Nature Conservancy is a global non-profit organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Informed by science and guided by traditional values and practices, we apply innovative, nature-based solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive. Established in 1980, TNC’s Hawai‘i program has forged partnerships to manage 14 preserves and other sites across the Hawaiian Islands and has grown to include Palmyra Atoll. In Hawai‘i, we work with government agencies, private landowners, businesses, community partners and local stakeholders to protect and restore Hawai‘i’s native watershed forests, coral reefs and nearshore fisheries for their ecological value and the many benefits they provide to people. At Palmyra Atoll located 1,000 miles south of Hawai‘i, we conduct and facilitate research in this living laboratory to better understand and address global questions around sustainable fisheries and resilience to climate change. Visit nature.org/HawaiiPalmyra.

About Kupu:  

Established in 2007 as a Honolulu-based 501(c)3 non-profit, Kupu empowers future generations to create a more sustainable Hawai‘i. The organization provides hands-on training and national service programs that educate and mentor youth to become stewards of culture and environment. Kupu has trained more than 5,000 youth and adults in conservation, sustainability, and environmental education. These young adults have supported Kupu partners to provide more than 3 million hours of service, which has culminated in planting over 1 million native plants and removing over 100,000 acres of invasive species. For their service, Kupu has presented $6.3 million in education awards to support the continued growth of its members. To date, Kupu has generated more than $153 million in economic benefits to the state of Hawai‘i. For more information, follow Kupu on FacebookInstagram, or YouTube, or visit kupuhawaii.org.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.