Law Professor reports on climate change impacts to U.S. Senate Committee

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Derek Kauanoe, (808) 956-0836
Student and Community Outreach, School of Law
Posted: Jul 27, 2012

Assistant Professor Malia Akutagawa of the William S. Richardson School of Law reported on the impacts of climate change in Hawaiʻi at a U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs oversight hearing.  In her testimony, Professor Akutagawa shared, “Surface air temperature in Hawaiʻi is steadily increasing and causing reduced cloud cover and a 15% decline in rainfall.”
Akutagawa also testified to specific consequences of climate change. “Seventy-two percent of Kauaʻi’s beaches are eroding. Global sea level is expected to rise three feet above current levels by the end of this century,” she explained.
The data may explain observations made by the Native Hawaiian community that include edible seaweeds (such as limu ‘eleʻele) dying out, spring water reductions along coastlines, and protracted fishing seasons.
In responding to climate change, Akutagawa recommended “federal support for increasing Hawaiʻi’s food security as a strategy for climate change adaptation and resilience.” Before concluding her testimony, Akutagawa urged the U.S. Senate committee to “support collaborative governance processes and the work of the ʻAha Kiole.”
The ʻAha Kiole is an advisory committee established by the State of Hawaiʻi, with the goal of creating a system of “best practices” based on indigenous resource management practices. In doing so, the ‘Aha Kiole will take into account regional boundaries, acknowledging the natural contours of land, as well as area-specific resources and necessary methodologies for sustaining those resources and the community.
When asked how traditional knowledge can help find solutions to climate change, Akutagawa explained that traditional and localized land management allowed for “changes on the ground immediately” so that “individual resources could be abundant.”
Professor Akutagawa, was invited by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to testify at an Oversight Hearing on Impacts of Environmental Changes on Treaty Rights, Traditional Lifestyles, and Tribal Homelands.
Akutagawa was joined on the panel by Mike Williams, Chief of the Yupiit Nation; Tex “Red Tipped Arrow” Hall, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation; Thomas Dardar, Principal Chief of the United Houma Nation; and Bill Frank, Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.