The great thing about science is that it’s wonderful at quantifying the havoc that climate change is wreaking on the planet. For instance, here are some stats about how climate change has already altered Hawaii (taken from this 2014 UH Manoa SeaGrant report Climate Change Impacts in Hawaii):
• The rate of warming air temperature in Hawaii has quadrupled in the last 40 years;
• Decrease in the prevailing northeasterly trade winds over the last 40 years;
• Decline in rainfall in the last 30 years;
• Decrease in stream base flow over the last 70 years;
• Sea surface temperatures have warmed for the last 40 years;
• Global ocean acidity has increased by 30 percent;
• Sea level has risen over the last century on each island at rates varying from 0.5- 1.3 inches per decade.
For the people who work on restoring Kahoʻolawe, these changes can have a serious impact on their ability to work. In fact, the June 2017 issue of the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) newsletter Ko Hema Lama includes some fascinating information on how climate change is currently affecting restoration efforts.
This isn’t an academic issue for the KIRC. Reserve personnel rely on boats to get from Maui to Kahoʻolawe, and it’s not good for them if climate change means an increase unfavorable swell directions at their launch point (see above photo).
Here’s KIRC boat captain Lopaka White asking some very disturbing rhetorical questions about what’s going on with our climate, and what we can expect in the future:
What is normal? Can we expect these exceptionally warm years more often than not? Is this the new norm based on global warming events and reports from around the world? Throw in major flood events like in Iao Valley last year (supposedly a “500 year event”) and you have to wonder if this kind of weather is going to be trending towards the new norm (humid, hot, floods, rain)–or–is this just a small part of the curve on a long cycle?
Rhetorical questions aside, climate change is affecting the KIRC, and not in a good way. Further down the newsletter article, White becomes almost poetic in noting how they’re dealing with it:
Kahoʻolawe does what Kahoʻolawe wants to do, and we have to adapt to it. Humans have to adapt to the environment. The environment is going to change and adapt however it wants to. Now, we need to do more to keep up: brush reduction, road and trail maintenance after each rain event, ensuring our anchors, tie-off lines and moorings are accessible and inspected, etc. More rain means more maintenance, which takes attention away from other priorities. Safety comes first.
Click here to read the KIRC newsletter.
Photo of unfavorable swell direction at Kihei Boat Ramp courtesy Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission