Climate Change

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Also referred to as global warming, the earth has experienced changes to its temperature, weather and general climate over recent decades. The majority of scientists say these changes are largely due to an increase in human-related greenhouse gases created through the burning of fossil fuel and deforestation. Hawaii could be among the first to feel dramatic impacts from increased storm intensity and rising ocean waters.

Overview

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is leading the way as people try to understand climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization to “provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences,” IPCC says.

In its most recent assessment report, published in 2007, the IPCC said that climate change is “unequivocal,” pointing to data that shows the global surface temperature rose by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit during the 20th century. The temperature is expected to rise by another 2 degrees Fahrenheit in the next century.

The report said the cause of the changes are “dominated” by the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased dramatically since before the industrial revolution, and rose 70 percent between 1970 and 2004, the report said.

Impacts

Two areas in which climate change is already being felt in Hawaii are sea level rise and ocean acidification. A rise in sea levels combined with the islands’ erosion could lead to dramatic problems, for example, because of big wave events. Sea level changes could also impact infrastructure and carry huge costs to fight. Increasingly acidic oceans threaten coral reef systems and the sea life that relies on them for survival. This could impact Hawaii residents’ food supply from the ocean.

The continued increase of global temperatures will also cause:

  • Glacier retreat
  • Melting polar ice
  • Changes to precipitation patterns
  • Increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events

Mitigation

Mitigation efforts include programs designed to reduce the intensity of climate change and global warming. These include the development of new technologies to prevent further warming, because reducing existing global warming seems to be unlikely.

Most proposals to mitigate climate change start with an emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by curtailing energy use through a transition to clean energy sources. These efforts include fuel-efficient vehicles, renewable energy from solar, wind, ocean thermal and geothermal sources and other conservation efforts.

Other important ideas focus on preventing deforestation and promoting reforestation. Planting trees is often promoted as a way of counteracting oil-burning activities because trees ingest carbon dioxide and can help reduce greenhouse gases. Carbon capture projects would store carbon dioxide gas released from power plants either deep underground, deep in the sea or in the form of solid minerals.

The United National Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. As of July 2010, 188 countries have signed and ratified the protocol. Seven nations have yet to express a position. The United States has not ratified, meaning it has not agreed to cap its emissions.

Population control has also been discussed as a means of mitigating global warming.

Adaptation

In addition to attempts to stop, slow or reduce global warming, efforts are under way to minimize the impacts of climate change once it inevitably arrives. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines adaptation as “adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.”

Examples of adaptation strategies to prevent damage from climate change include shore protection like seawalls or beach nourishment that can protect low-lying coastal property from rising seas. An alternative could be a planned retreat in which structures are relocated inland. President Barack Obama‘s Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force produced an interim progress report in March 2010.

Skepticism

Skeptics, including many scientists, disagree about whether the earth is actually warming, and also disagree about whether any warming effects are caused by human behaviors.

Among them are longtime Colorado State University meteorologist Roger Pielke, who maintains a climate science blog, and Danish environmental writer Bjorn Lomborg, who authored a book titled, “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming.”

Others have voiced their beliefs that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by liberal governments and Al Gore in an effort to control big business. Pielke says human activity and not CO2 buildup account for most of green house gases.

Key Players

Government

Scientists

Skeptics

Advocacy Groups

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Climate Change

October 2017

Monday, October 9

‘Ecological Roulette’: Almost 70 Species Rode Tsunami Debris To Hawaii

August 2017

Thursday, August 3

Kauai Council Says No Thanks To $100K To Fight Climate Change

June 2017

Thursday, June 1

Corals Are Dying At Hawaii’s Most Popular Snorkeling Spot

March 2017

Monday, March 13

Sea Level Rise May Be Worse Than Previously Thought

October 2016

Thursday, October 6

There’s A Big Mess At The Papahanaumokuakea Monument

September 2016

Tuesday, September 6

Here Are The Actions The IUCN Is Considering Taking

Sunday, September 4

An All-Star Panel Talks Big Ideas About The Future Of Oceans

August 2016

Wednesday, August 31

Obama In Honolulu: ‘No Nation Is Immune To A Changing Climate’

June 2016

Monday, June 20

Chief Justice: Hawaii Environmental Court ‘Very Successful’ In First Year

April 2016

Monday, April 18

Scientists Model Future Of Oceans In A Changed Climate, And It’s Not Pretty

Monday, April 11

How Can One City Tackle Climate Change?

March 2016

Wednesday, March 16

Rising Seas Could Displace Thousands Of Ewa Beach Residents

December 2015

Tuesday, December 8

Scientists Warn Climate Change Will Trigger Rise In Terrifying Illness

Sunday, December 6

Schatz Bullish On Global Climate Agreement

Friday, December 4

Schatz With Delegation at Climate Talks

Tuesday, December 1

House Rejects Obama’s Climate Rules

November 2015

Friday, November 27

Climate Change Focus On Marshall Islands

October 2015

Monday, October 26

Climate Change: ‘The Single Greatest Threat To Our Existence’

A Marshallese Poet Speaks Out On Climate Change

Tuesday, October 20

Emergency Moratorium on Collecting Aquarium Fish Demanded

Thursday, October 15

Ige Taps Planner to Head Office of Environmental Quality Control

September 2015

Friday, September 25

Schatz: Just Say No to Arctic Drilling

June 2015

Monday, June 8

Want to Save the Planet? Have Fewer Kids

May 2015

Friday, May 29

How Do You Measure Sea Level?

Thursday, May 21

UH Regents Vote to Stop Investing in Fossil Fuels

Friday, May 8

Local Engineers Explore Protecting Infrastructure From Climate Change

April 2015

Friday, April 3

Departures in Congress Result in New Leaders on the Environment

March 2015

Tuesday, March 31

Why Did the City Approve a New Seawall for a Kahala Property After the State Ordered It Removed?

Monday, March 9

Saving Waikiki Beach — At Least for Now

February 2015

Thursday, February 26

Renowned Climate Change Author Faults HECO for Blocking Solar

Monday, February 9

Schatz: ‘Glimmer of Hope’ on Climate Change, Energy Policy

November 2014

Wednesday, November 19

Abercrombie Fired Up About Climate Change

September 2014

Wednesday, September 3

Inch by Sandy Inch, Hawaii’s Loss of Beaches Worries Tourism Industry

August 2014

Friday, August 22

Big Ideas, Plenty of Uncertainty at Hawaii Environmental Council

July 2014

Monday, July 7

State and County Leaders Pledge Commitment to Hawaii Sustainability

June 2014

Tuesday, June 10

Hawaii Governor Signs Law to Study Rising Seas

Monday, June 2

Ad Watch: Schatz Takes on Big Oil, Climate Change in New Pitch

May 2014

Friday, May 23

Cost of Preventing Ala Wai Canal Flood Rises to $200 Million

Wednesday, May 7

Hawaii Should Brace for Major Environmental Changes, Report Says

April 2014

Thursday, April 17

Did Sen. Brian Schatz Score Big Political Points With Climate Summit?

Wednesday, April 16

Hawaii Looks for Local Solutions As Washington, D.C., Stalls on Climate

Tuesday, April 15

Al Gore on Climate Change: ‘We Are Going to Win This Thing’

Monday, April 14

Hawaii Sustainability Conference To Explore ‘A World Worth Living In’

February 2014

Wednesday, February 26

Hawaii Governor Seeks Public Input on Climate Change

April 2013

Tuesday, April 2

VIDEO: Does More Need To Be Done About Climate Change In Hawaii?

January 2012

Wednesday, January 18

Spending and Market-Based Tools to Address Sea-Level Rise in Hawaii

Hawaii Planning and Regulatory Tools To Adapt to Sea-Level Rise

Tuesday, January 17

How Hawaii Should Address Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise

May 2011

Thursday, May 19

Tourism Infrastructure Most Vulnerable to Climate Change in Honolulu

January 2011

Wednesday, January 12

Senate’s Big Wind Hearing: Let the Negotiations Begin!

Saturday, January 8

Another Day, Another 20-Year Power Purchase Agreement

Friday, January 7

HECO: We’re Serious About Biofuels

December 2010

Wednesday, December 22

Measuring Carbon Dioxide Levels at Mauna Loa

October 2010

Saturday, October 23

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September 2010

Sunday, September 26

The Value of Hawaii: Climate Change by Chip Fletcher

August 2010

Tuesday, August 3

Discussion: Climate Change and Hawaii

July 2010

Saturday, July 31

Runway Under Water? Honolulu Planners Seek Study of Climate Change Impacts on Transportation

Monday, July 19

Topic Pages On Big Wind, Energy, Climate Change