Hawaii may become the first U.S. state with climate change warnings on all gas pumps

Bills have been introduced in the state of Hawaii Senate and House requiring warning labels on all gas pumps, providing consumers with information about the climate and health effects of burning fossil fuels. Senator Mike Gabbard comments: “What better way to help educate people on this looming threat, than by setting our beautiful island paradise as an example?”

In fall 2021, eco-labels with climate impact rating became mandatory on fuel dispensers and charging stations all across Sweden. A few months before that, climate and health warning labels were placed on all gas pumps in Cambridge, MA. These are the world’s first labelling schemes of this kind.

To help shift attitudes to fossil fuels, and contribute to behaviour change, these labels must be disseminated widely.

It is therefore a major step forward that bills SB506 and HB1277 were introduced a few days ago in the state of Hawaii Senate and House, respectively. These bills demand that all self-service gas pumps in Hawaii have warning labels that provide consumers with information about the climate and health effects of burning fossil fuels.

There is a public hearing today on Monday January 30, 2pm HST (12pm UTC), concerning SB506 in the Hawaii Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment. The hearing is livestreamed on YouTube.

Senator Mike Gabbard and Representative Lisa Marten provided the following statements to the Hawaii-based non-profit Think Beyond the Pump.

As Chair of the Hawai’i State Senate Committee on Energy & Environment for seven years, and Chair of the Agriculture & Environment for the past six years, my love for the ʻāina (land) and environment in Hawai’i nei continues to grow.

In 2023, I plan to build upon the momentum we started in 2021 as the first U.S. state in the nation to declare a “Climate Emergency” by setting a precedent as the first state in the U.S. to regulate fossil fuels for climate and health impacts through issuing climate-health information labels on gas pumps.

To me, weaning ourselves off fossil fuels is a no-brainer when it comes to protecting our health and our environment from the effects of climate change. Placing warning labels on gas pumps across Hawai’i sends a strong message and would be a major step toward increasing awareness nationally – even globally. What better way to help educate people on this looming threat, than by setting our beautiful island paradise as an example?

Senator Mike Gabbard

Many Hawaiʻi residents are concerned about climate change and the costs we are facing to adapt to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns, but there is a disconnect between these concerns and personal transportation choices. The top selling car in 2022 was the Toyota Tacoma. Having warning labels reminds those pumping gas that they are part of the problem, even if they think of themselves as environmentalists.

Representative Lisa Marten
Representative Lisa Marten and Senator Mike Gabbard

Of course, many measures are needed to end the fossil fuel era besides warning labels or eco-labels. They are small pieces of the puzzle. However, as renowned public health professors and environmental psychologists wrote in an op-ed in BMJ about the need for such labels:

“Although individual action alone is insufficient to achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement, it is critical.”

More information

Hawaii State bills SB506 and HB1277. There is a public hearing on Monday January 30, 2pm HST (12pm UTC). Livestream on YouTube.

BMJ, March 31, 2020: We need health warning labels on points of sale of fossil fuels

The Guardian, December 25, 2020: Massachusetts city to post climate change warning stickers at gas stations

The Guardian, October 1, 2021: Swedish fuel retailers required to display eco-labels at pumps

The non-profit Think Beyond the Pump. Their advocacy has been essential to the introduction of the two Hawaii state bills.

The campaign We Want to Know by Green Mobilists Sweden

Featured image: Kaneohe Bay Oahu Hawaii. Source: Wikimedia