Yes, it’s depressing to watch the Trump Administration do everything it can to dismantle federal efforts at researching and countering climate change. The State of Hawaii obviously feels differently about the issue, which is why sometime around the end of the year (assuming we all live that long), the state Department of Land and Natural Resources will publish the long-awaited Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Report. This study will lay out in detail the damage sea level rise will inflict on Hawaii. It’s not expected to be good, West Hawaii Today reported on Aug. 20.
“The rising ocean could cost the state $19 billion in lost land and structures, untold millions more in lost infrastructure such as roads and utilities, 116 miles of roadway flooded, 6,500 structures flooded, 20,700 displaced people and the loss of 550 cultural sites by the year 2100, according to the most recent scientific modeling and economic projections,” stated the West Hawaii Today story.
Yes, that was $19 billion with a b. And nearly 21,000 residents driven from their homes with more than a hundred miles of roadways across the state flooded. This is a catastrophe that will dramatically change how people live in Hawaii. Think about all the luxurious homes and condos situated near the ocean on just Maui–you think those will still be usable in a century?
“The sea level is rising as we speak,” the paper quotes Sam Lemmo, administrator of DLNR’s Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, as saying. “We’re having to really dance on our feet and adapt to the rapidly changing conditions around us.”
Which is why the whole “by the year 2100” thing is tricky. That doesn’t mean things will be great until then–it means everything’s going haywire right now, and will continue to get worse until things are really bad in 2100. Remember, sea level rise isn’t just happening–it’s accelerating (in some places faster than others, to be clear). The Southeastern U.S. has really been hit hard in the last few years, and there’s no sign of things getting any better.
“Things can really change in five years, and when you look at the projections, you don’t really get that sense,” said Andrea Dutton, a geological science professor at the University of Florida in this Aug. 10 Scientific American article. “I think the projections give you a false sense of security because you say, ‘OK, we’re not going to get to this level until the year 2060 or whatever.’ But in reality, it can happen much faster.”