Climate change "amplified" the failures of officials to act properly on the Maui wildfires, Hawaii Democratic Gov. Josh Green suggested on Sunday.
While appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation," Green discussed what some people have considered critical mistakes by both local officials and private companies regarding the disaster. Though Green acknowledged failures in decisions made "in the moment" by these actors, he also remarked that these mistakes were aggravated by climate change.
"So just to be clear, when you’re talking about global warming, are you saying climate change amplified the cost of human error?" CBS host Margret Brennan asked.
"Yes. It did," Green replied.
He added, "There’s always going to be incredible things that people do to save lives from the firefighters, from the citizens. And there are always decisions made that I’m sure aren’t perfect in the moment. But when you have fire that moved more than a mile a minute, and what happened, I’m told by some of the survivors, they were at the initial fire, it was put out some time late in the afternoon in Lahaina, and then the firefighters had to go to three other fires that started because of the conditions."
"There’s no excuses ever to be made, but there are finite resources sometimes in the moment," Green said.
The West Maui Land Company, which manages several agricultural and residential subdivisions along with water jurisdictions, alleged on Friday that it requested to divert water to fight the wildfires on the day they began but were delayed several hours. According to the company, the Commission On Water Resource Management had to clear the decision with local farmers before acting.
Others, including Brennan, pointed out that the utility company Hawaiian Electric was aware since 2019 that more effort needed to be made to prevent power lines from emitting sparks that could cause wildfires. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company invested less than $250,000 on wildfire projects before finally requesting state permission to raise rates in 2022.
Instead, the company was focused on state-mandated efforts to switch to renewable energy.
Green remarked that there is currently a comprehensive review on whether power lines caused the initial fires but continued to emphasize the impact of climate change.
"It’s not to excuse anything else from any company. It’s just to explain what the world should prepare for. I humbly ask all of the cities and states to spend that money now to prevent disasters like we are seeing here," Green said.
Earlier in the segment, he also noted, "For perspective, we’ve had six fire emergencies this August. We had six fire emergencies between 1953 and 2003. That’s how fast things are changing. I know that there is debate out there whether we should be talking about climate change or not. Let’s be real, world. Climate change is here. We are in the midst of it with a hotter planet and fiercer storms."
At least 110 people have been reported dead from the fires.
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