Honolulu mayor says Oahu must prepare for 3-foot sea level rise by mid-century

Honolulu mayor says Oahu must prepare for 3-foot sea level rise by mid-century
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says the city needs to prepare for rising sea levels. (Image: Barbara Dittrich)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is directing all city departments to address, minimize the risks from, and adapt to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

"Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time," Caldwell said in a statement on Facebook on Monday. "Whether it be changing the building code, whether it be looking at allowing more housing to be built close to the shore, and everything else in between."

The mayor gave the directive in a press conference Monday after receiving sea level rise guidelines from the the Honolulu Climate Change Commission, which is led by the University of Hawaii.

"The city should be planning for high tide flooding associated with 3.2 feet of sea level rise by mid-century," the school said in a news release.

The commission says Oahu is the most vulnerable Hawaiian island when it comes to flood risk. The report says nearly 4,000 structures on Oahu, most of which are homes or businesses, will be chronically flooded with the three-foot sea level rise. Furthermore, about 18 miles of the island's coastal roads will become impassable, jeopardizing access to many communities.

"And, because of continued high global carbon emissions, take into consideration 6 feet of sea level rise in later decades of the century, especially for critical infrastructure with long expected lifespans and low-risk tolerance," the school said.

Because of this, the mayor says he wants all city departments and semi-autonomous agencies to account for climate change in every decision they make.

"By issuing this directive, I want to ensure that every policy and project decision dealing with sea level rise going forward is made in the best interest of the public," Caldwell said.

The sea level rise guidelines recommended by the commission line up with findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.