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Is Hawai‘i prepared for the impacts of climate change?

Spear fisherman

Image Credit: Joshua Cinner.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001683.g001

The Hawaiian Islands represent a wide diversity of ecosystems and environments, including areas of breathtaking natural beauty as well as densely populated coastal cities. These unique environments are already changing under the influence of climate change from the effects of increasing temperatures, decreasing rainfall, rising seas, coastal erosion, land use and development changes, and increasing demands on our natural resources. What can we expect in the future, and how can we best prepare?

The new report, titled Climate Change Impacts in Hawai‘i: A summary of climate change and its impacts to Hawai‘i’s ecosystems and communities, produced by the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant) with funding from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), helps to answer this question. It begins by answering such basic questions as “What does climate change look like?” “What is the current state of scientific knowledge regarding climate change globally, and how does it relate to Hawai‘i specifically?”

By addressing these fundamental questions, UH Sea Grant and the HTA are striving to improve the general understanding of climate change and its associated impacts, which in turn will help communities be better prepared to undertake climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Dolan Eversole, coordinator of the NOAA Sea Grant Coastal Storms Program for the Pacific Islands Region and lead author of the report, noted “While there is a large amount of science on global climate change available, sorting through and interpreting this often very technical and sometimes disparate information can be confusing and time-consuming. We produced a series of reports which we hope will make this information widely accessible and easy to understand, and in turn will help all of us anticipate and prepare for the changes that we are beginning to see in the islands.”

“The HTA partnered with the University of Hawai‘i to fund the climate change study” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. “HTA is a knowledge based organization and we believe it’s important to be informed about Hawai‘i’s environment as it relates to tourism. We will use this study to help guide us in how we address our environmental initiatives.”

The report is part of a series which also includes Climate Change and the Visitor Industry: People, Place, Culture, and the Hawai‘i Experience; and HTA Stakeholder Outreach Workshop: Summaries and Risk Perception Analysis.Digital versions of all three reports are available at http://seagrant.soest.hawaii.edu/publications , and a limited number of hard copies are available by request by calling (808) 956-7410.

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The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program is part of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s prestigious School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. It supports an innovative program of research, education and extension services directed to the improved understanding and stewardship of coastal and marine resources of the state, region and nation. Science serving Hawai‘i and the Pacific for over 45 years.

Source:  A UH Sea Grant College Program news release

 

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