East Hawaii News

Group Gathers for Hawai’i’s First Sea Level Rise Workshop

February 14, 2016, 2:27 PM HST
* Updated February 14, 11:30 AM
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The first sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation workshop was held in Hawai’i last week.

Thursday’s workshop, hosted by the State Interagency Adaptation Committee, was held in recognition that Hawai’i is the only island state in the United States that could be not only the first, but also the most dramatically impacted by rising ocean levels.

ICAC’s workshop brought pre-eminent climate change experts, state and county leaders, and people interested in learning about how Hawai’i could be affected by rising sea levels and the exploration of adaptation strategies.

Nainoa Thompson, master navigator with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, presented the keynote address. During his talk, Thompson asked the 250 participants to begin to create a map that would be used by Hawai’i and other coastal and island locations that could be used to navigate “one of the most scientifically and technically challenging environmental issues the globe will face in coming decades.”

“I need you to help explain to my children and all children that what you will accomplish today will not only help protect our shorelines but help protect their homes for tomorrow.”  Thompson said. “Please understand that I am extraordinarily grateful, on behalf of my children, for you being here to help us chart the course and create the map for the future.”

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Along with Thompson, Sam Lemmo, co-chair of ICAC and the administrator of the State of Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, also spoke during the conference.

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“We want to have maximum public outreach, and this workshop achieves one of our objectives of having maximum public participation,” Lemmo said. “We’re going to take the feedback and comments from events like this and others and incorporate them into our report to the Hawai’i State Legislature.”

ICAC was established by Act 83, which requires the development of a report on sea level rise and adaptation strategies to lawmakers by the end of 2017.

Various areas around the state are expected to be affected by sea level rise.

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Dr. Chip Fletcher leads a team of researchers at the University of Hawai’i of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology in identifying potential danger areas. The team has created models that predict how certain low lying coastal plains will be consumed by ocean water, as well as when and to what potential depths.

Fletcher told participants that “2015 broke all records as the hottest year in the last 130 years.  Climate change is highly variable and has no uniformity.  The science associated with it demands the very best research possible.”

Climate change impacts, including heat waves, changing precipitation patterns, food impacts, rain in Hawai’i, ecosystem threats, changing storminess, optimism climate change, and sea level rise were focuses of Dr. Fletcher’s talk.

Dr. Catherine Courtney of Tetra Tech, Inc., the consulting firm working with the ICAC and Anukriti Hittle and a visiting scholar at the East-West Center from Washington University in St. Louis, also spoke at the event.

The second half of the workshop, entitled “Adaptation: Charting the Course,” consisted of small group discussions on people’s various roles in sea level rise strategies and charting a new direction based on sea level rise projections.

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