East Hawaii News

ICAC Addresses Climate Change at Initial Meeting

June 5, 2015, 3:36 PM HST
* Updated June 5, 3:37 PM
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The Hawai’i State legislature has named climate change as one of the most urgent and long-term threats to the State’s economy, sustainability, security, and way of life.

The Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee, a byproduct of Act 83 passed in 2014, which was established to address the effects of climate change, held its first meeting on June 3. Representatives from more than a dozen state and county agencies attended the meeting. The ICAC is tasked with developing a statewide Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Report, which is due to the legislature by the end of 2017.

“Hawai’i, as the only island state in the U.S., is among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise, yet we were one of the few coastal states that has not adopter a statewide climate adaptation plan. Act 83 and the ICAC changes this,” said Representative Chris Lee, chair of the Hawai’i House of Representatives Energy & Environment Committee, who was one of the lawmakers  instrumental in passing Act 83.

According to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, its office of Conservation and Coastal Lands will lead the development of the SLR Report, in coordination with the ICAC.

“The SLR Report will serve as the framework to address other climate-related threats and climate change adaptation priorities, ultimately leading to a Climate Adaptation Plan for the State, which will be prepared by the State Office of Planning,” said Sam Lemmo, OCCL Administrator. “Over the next two and a half years we will meet regularly, engage climate change experts, and keep the citizens of Hawai’i informed of our progress and recommendations to combat the negative impacts of sea level rise and other climate change threats.”

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Working with the DLNR and the ICAC, Dr. Chip Fletcher of the University of Hawai’i’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, a climate change scientist, is being engaged in the topic. Dr. Fletcher works on predictive models that visually depict the images of sea level rise along Hawai’i coastlines.

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“Rising sea levels, exacerbated by stronger storms, will increase coastal flooding and erosion.  It will damage coastal ecosystems and infrastructure and affect tourism, agriculture, military bases and other industries. This is on top of the impacts of higher sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification,” Dr. Fletcher stated when he presented his latest findings during the first ICAC.

According to DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case, who co-chairs the ICAC with the director of the State Office of Planning, the work being conducted by the ICAC is of the utmost importance, “The work of the ICAC is among the highest priority work we will do over the next few years.  Beach erosion, drought, coral bleaching, and rising ocean temperatures are already having measurable impacts on Hawai’i and are expected to accelerate in coming years.  These threats include impacts to our host culture, including impacts to coastal artifacts and structures and reduced availability of traditional food sources and subsistence fisheries.”

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