Major concerns over Hawaii's climate change

Major concerns over Hawaii's climate change
Published: May. 6, 2014 at 10:48 PM HST
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MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the heels of the Obama administration releasing the National Climate Assessment, a panel of experts gathered at UH Manoa to discuss not only the findings, but what they mean for Hawaii.

"It's not something that's happening elsewhere at a future time.  It's happening now and it's going to get much worse" said Maxine Burkett of the University of Hawaii.

The panel listed the major concerns for Hawaii and the Pacific Islands as:

  • Decreased freshwater supplies.
  • Rising sea levels, causing coastal flooding and erosion that are likely to damage coastal infrastructure and agriculture, impact tourism, and negatively affect ecosystems and endangered species.
  • Higher air temperatures, especially at high elevations.
  • Higher sea-surface temperatures causing coral bleaching and linked to the increased prevalence of certain coral diseases.
  • Threats to traditional lifestyles of indigenous Pacific island communities.

The changes, experts said, will affect all areas of life in Hawaii, from the economy to daily activities.

"They're going to affect the ability for tourists to spend time on the beach, they're going to affect the ability for local folks to harvest opihi" said John Marra, a Coastal Geologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While changes are coming, the panel said so too are opportunities.

"[We're] looking certainly at our energy production, that's going to be the most important thing in Hawaii.  It does two things, it helps us to have less impact in terms of emissions, it also increases our resilience" said Burkett.

"We have a window, it's very slender, and we need to act with a sense of urgency.  We have a window to do things much better than we have and not just plug the hole but create a much better, prosperous and efficient society as a result" she concluded.

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