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Citing recent severe weather, Honolulu Mayor Blangiardi urges action against climate change

Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 3:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In his first State of The City speech Monday, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said it’s time to shift from talking about policy to taking steps toward a “climate-ready Oahu.”

Blangiardi cited recent flooding as an example for the need to protect Oahu from the impacts of climate change, which he said is already happening.

The goal is to improve drainage and flood management systems across the island.

“We’re not prepared for that and haven’t been and this is going to take years in the making,” said Blangiardi. “It’s not a short term.”

Chip Fletcher, associate dean for Academic Affairs with the School of Ocean, Earth Science and Technology at UH Manoa, said climate change taking place increases the likelihood of more intense rainfall.

Fletcher said it shows that the current infrastructure is not appropriate to combat global warming.

“And one of the factors that plays into the damage is that our engineering systems designed to drain runoff out of our communities are under scaled for this intense level of precipitation,” said Fletcher.

So, you know, the logistics of putting in a new drainage system are challenging, expensive and difficult, not to mention, redesigning it to meet rising sea level and increased intensity of precipitation.”

John Bravender, warning coordination meteorologist of the National Weather Service, said while last week’s weather was extreme, it wasn’t unusual due to the time of year.

“It’s hard to ... indicate one type of event is attributed to climate change, but what we see is an increased frequency in tight in extreme events like we had this past week,” said Bravender.

Blangiardi said the city has created an interdepartmental “One Water” panel to address climate adaptation.

They’re working to maximize funding opportunities and find ways to add on revenue.

“It actually was identified in the resilience strategy itself, the notion of ‘One Water,’ it’s this national framework for resource and financial efficiencies, but also an opportunity to specifically link up infrastructure investments to address climate change, adaptation,” said Matt Gonser, chief resilience officer and executive director.

To help the economy recover from the effects of the pandemic, the administration said they will add clean jobs and innovation as they work to prepare Oahu for the impacts of climate change.

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