City Council gets a ‘doomsday presentation’ on sea level rise ― and pledges action

King tides in Hawaii in 2017.
King tides in Hawaii in 2017.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 5:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The ongoing fight against the effects of climate change took centerstage at the Honolulu City Council on Thursday.

In the past, the council’s Zoning and Planning Committee has drafted bills surrounding coastal erosion and climate change. But lawmakers are now looking at creating comprehensive legislation focused on shoreline development.

In an informational briefing, climate experts offered a presentation showcasing the long-term impact of global warming on coastlines throughout Oahu.

In Ewa Beach, for example, models show wave inundation of 4 feet in the next 70 years.

Dr. Chip Fletcher, interim dean of the University of Hawaii-Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, calls sea level rise “an unstoppable reality.”

“Ultimately, we are looking at a statewide, in fact, a worldwide retreat from the shoreline of significant proportion,” Fletcher said.

Councilmembers say the presentation underscored the urgent need to hone in on solutions and take a proactive approach in adjusting to sea level rise.

“I got a little horrified and scared,” said councilmember Calvin Say. “The presentation was a doomsday presentation for all of us to recognize. Setbacks is one issue, but there are more other issues we have to contend with.”

Kauai and Maui counties already have rules in place based on future coastal erosion models.

Over the next several months and into the new year, the city is planning to gather more feedback from community stakeholders and neighborhood boards throughout Oahu.