What is Climate Change?
Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere.
While the Earth’s climate has always had cycles of warming and cooling, recent changes are far faster than anything the planet has experienced before – faster than the planet can adapt. Over the past 150 years, temperatures have risen, sea levels have gone up, and severe storms have become more frequent.
How Climate Change Affects Hawaii
Island communities like Hawaii are especially vulnerable to climate change because of their susceptibility to coastal flooding and storms. Climate change is not a problem of the future – it has already affected Hawaii. In recent years, Hawaii has experienced record high tides, a series of damaging storms, and severe heat waves that affected native plants, animals and coral reefs.
According to Hawaii Business Magazine, rising temperatures have killed up to 90 percent of cauliflower coral around Hawaii, which is impacting ocean recreation. This could ultimately harm coastal businesses and hurt the ability of residents in the tourism or fishing industries to make a living.
The United Nations’ climate change panel has predicted that global sea levels will rise up to 3.2 feet by the year 2100, or as early as 2060 in some scenarios.
A 2018 federal report concluded that by 2060:
Hawaii could experience $19 billion of property and land damage.
38 miles of major roads in Hawaii will be chronically flooded.
Nearly 550 Hawaiian cultural sites will be flooded.
More than 6,500 structures and 25,800 acres of land near the shoreline will be unusable or lost.
Roughly 20,000 residents will be displaced.
Dependable and safe water supplies will be threatened.
Avian malaria could become more widespread and lead to “severe negative impacts” on Hawaiian forest birds.
Increasing ocean temperatures and acidification threaten fisheries, coral reefs and the livelihoods they support.
Did You Know?
Native birds are already being negatively impacted by climate change.
"Our findings are showing the mechanism behind how changes in climate can reduce food resources and potentially lead to population crashes in nectar-feeding native birds in Hawaii,” said researcher Jared Wolfe. “Climatic projections suggest an increased severity of dry seasons in the archipelago, so this might have further impacts on native species.”
Addressing Climate Change
More than 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change come from generating electricity. Shifting to clean, renewable power sources will have an enormous environmental impact.
In 2015, Hawaii became the first state in the U.S. to pledge to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. Projects like Palehua Wind will play an important role in fulfilling the state’s commitment to clean energy.
Palehua Wind will produce enough clean power to serve 25,000 homes. It will also displace over 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking almost 30,000 cars off the road.
To learn more about Hawaii’s climate change challenge, visit https://www.civilbeat.org/hawaii-2040.
Did You Know?
According to the Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report, “Over the next 30 to 70 years, as sea level rises, homes and businesses located on or near the shoreline throughout the State will become exposed to chronic flooding. Portions of coastal roads may become flooded, eroded, impassible, and potentially irreparable, jeopardizing access to and from many communities. The flooding of hotels and transportation systems would impact the visitor economy and thus impact the people whose livelihoods depend on tourism.”