LIHUE — Endangered species are losing their habitat and beaches are disappearing in Hawaii; all clues that climate change is starting to have its way with the Aloha State.
It’s not just a Hawaii problem — for example, researchers say lobsters are migrating from Rhode Island to Maine and the wildfire season has started to stretch longer in the Western U.S.
On Kauai, coastal flooding and increased beach erosion are already starting to take their toll, sea level is creeping up toward foundations, and changes in the ocean are threatening coral reefs.
Both residents and officials are looking at the future, wondering what’s going to have to change to maintain the island’s lifestyle — and at the price tag that’s going to come with it.
About 60 of those people gathered at Ha Coffee Bar Thursday night on Rice Street in Lihue to hear the latest on initiatives to address current and future impacts of climate change, hoping to get up to speed and get involved.
“Kauai needs to be a local and global leader for solutions to climate change and pollution,” said Hanalei resident Mahana Dunn. “Without a cohesive plan by the community, we’ll all be negatively affected.”
Spearheading the conversation was Victoria Keener, lead author of the Hawaii- and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands chapter of the 4th National Climate Assessment, who gave a presentation at the invitation of Leadership Kauai, with the support of Ben Sullivan, energy and sustainability coordinator for Kauai County.
With her focus on Hawaii, she talked about what researchers say is coming in the next century — including sea levels rising more than three feet by the year 2100 with an estimated 25,800 acres and $19 billion statewide lost from flooding.
In the next century, Keener pointed out projected threats to freshwater supplies; to terrestrial ecosystems, ecosystem services and biodiversity; to coastal communities and systems; to fisheries, coral reefs and other marine resources; to culture, indigenous communities and knowledge; and cumulative impacts like social costs.
“The impacts are here and now,” Keener said. “Early interventions and adaptations will be more effective.”
The 4th National Climate Assessment is meant to inform cities, states and counties to do just that — start forming adaptations and interventions now.
Honolulu has already started looking at recommendations that target things like road-raising and fortifying flood-prone areas, and Sullivan said Thursday Kauai County is also working on a plan to address some of the impacts of climate change.
It’s going to take strong leadership and forward thinking to adapt to the changes researchers say are headed our way on a global and island scale in the next century, Keener said.
Dunn added that solving some of these problems now will put Kauai at the forefront of society’s adaptation to climate change and help inform others who follow.
“We’re all in it together,” she said. “We have to come together for sustainable solutions.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.