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DRAFT Hawai'i Sea Level Rise Report Briefed

Department of Land and Natural Resources

The State’s Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission conducted its first meeting today and received a briefing on a draft sea level rise report.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.


Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased 25 percent since 1958 and are up 40 percent since the industrial revolution.   U.H. School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology coastal management specialist, Bradley Romine, says this correlates with higher global temperatures.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Coastal Management Specialist Bradley Romine, PhD.

“From the climate record we noticed that warming has accelerated, especially in the last 50 years; 2016 was the first that we had 3 of the hottest years on record in a row.  And this July, the most recent month we have so far, tied as the hottest month on record.”

This warming, Romine says, has caused the melting of ice sheets at the polar caps and the thermal expansion of the ocean.  This has also produced higher-level predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earlier this year.

“The study looked at the most up to date scientific literature and reports on sea level rise.  They also looked at the potential for rapid ice melt in the Antarctica.  And they had a mid-range intermediate scenario at about 3 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century.  They also provide a high-end or extreme scenario of as much as six-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half feet by the end of the century, which they deem as physically plausible.”

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Marine Environmental Scientist, Catherine Courtney

A draft report on sea level rise is being reviewed by the Hawai’i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission.  It’s due to the legislature before the next session convenes in January.   Consultant and Marine Environmental Scientist, Catherine Courtney, says the draft report, based on current research and scientific data, provides damage estimates for the state.

“With 3.2 feet of sea level rise, the acres of land that would be impacted.  O’ahu 9,400 acres, about, and other islands, less so.  Economic loss, based on the structure and land:  $430 million on the Big Island to $12.9 billion on O’ahu.  Which, remember, they do not include costs of new roads or sewer lines.  These aren’t in there.”

Courtney says the draft report could prove useful in future land use planning and redevelopment.  Meanwhile, Governor David Ige has joined 15 other governors in the U.S. Climate Alliance to take the lead to reduce green house gasses and increase carbon capture.

“As an island community here in Hawai’i, we do see the impact of climate change in a real, dramatic way.  You know, we’ve seen the increasing hurricane seasons and seen more storms, more flooding events.  We have the king tides and the coral bleaching events.  I think the majority of our residents get it and are ready to take action.”

For more information on Conservation and Coastal lands go to climateadaptation.hawaii.gov.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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