Millions in taxpayer money requested for climate study

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to fix Oahu’s roads and sewer lines, but lawmakers are asking to spend taxpayers’ money in other ways, including studying climate change and its effects on Hawaii.

For that, Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin is asking for $2 million in the budget. The request passed a second reading late Wednesday afternoon.

“That is a lot of money for us. It can go a long way,” said Camilo Mora, professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s geography department.

Mora has spent years studying climate change. After seeing Martin’s budget request, he says, “The first question to me is who is the researcher who is going to take care of this? This is something that we require all kinds of expertise to understand and assess.”

KHON2 asked Martin how the $2 million would be spent and who would be working on this study, since Mora and his colleagues haven’t been approached yet.

Martin said the money would go towards a study assessing the risks of climate change. That includes risks to roads, beachfront homes and even to the Emergency Medical Services communications system.

“Concerns of a global warming, rising sea change levels, the impact that it will have, especially for Honolulu, which is primarily coastal,” Martin said. “I think $2 million is significant, but if you don’t invest now, you’ll pay later.”

Martin believes $2 million is minimal compared to what the costs would be to repair or fix some of the damages that could occur due to climate change.

The researchers KHON2 spoke with say they haven’t heard about this possible study on climate change, but they hope to be included.

“That’s what we’re hoping, of course. That’s what we’re hoping,” Martin said.

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