Politics and Climate Change in Hawaii


By T. Jeffersonian

Climate Change is affecting Hawaii. Just this weekend, we are expecting fifty-foot waves on Oahu’s North Shore. It is not uncommon to have waves hit cars drive along the coastal highways and to see citizens use crushed concrete, black tarps, and all other assortments of other fillers to try and prevent the ocean from taking their properties. From 1880 to 2021, the world has warmed by 1 degree Celsius. The world is now expected to have warmed by another ½ degree Celsius by 2030 and by a full 2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. The rise in global temperatures is already causing weather patterns to change and is threatening droughts, flooding, extinctions, disease, famine, and mass migration of people and animals.

Sea levels were expected to rise by 3.2 feet by 2100. Less optimistic projections point to 3.2 feet rise in sea levels occurring as early as 2060. A 3.2 feet sea level rise will flood $20 billion worth of Hawaii’s land and structures. 550 Native Hawaiian cultural sites will be flooded or eroded. 20,000 Hawaiians will be forced to move. The costs will be much worse if the gravest of all climate change projections associated with 8-10 feet rises in sea levels occur.

Not only are sea levels rising, but sea temperatures are rising as well. Rising sea temperatures kill coral which reduces areas where fish live and feed. Hawaiians will have less money because bleached coral will decrease the fishing industry. Billions of dollars of commercial revenue will be lost. Currently coral surrounds 38 percent of the Hawaiian Islands. By 2050, only 11 percent of the coral will remain and by 2100, only 1 percent. Losing coral equates to a $1.3 billion loss in revenue by 2050 and $1.9 billion lost by 2090.

What can Hawaii political leaders do about Climate Change? Hawaii has already passed the United States’ most ambitious renewal energy program pledging to be 100 percent reliant on renewal energy by 2045. This pledge also commits Hawaii to being carbon neutral. Reducing carbon emissions is only one part of stopping temperature rise, removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere must also be undertaken to reverse climate change.

Climate change as noted is rising sea levels and changing weather patterns which is causing erosion to Hawaii’s coastlines. Eventually roads and homes along the beach will be unsustainable. At that point, we cannot use the roads and the homes must be vacated. The only current alternative is to move the roads further inland. Building a new road further inland is costly and necessitates that good homes further inland will have purchased by the state and condemned so that space can be made for a new road. Rather than build an entirely new road, the state can allow homeowners to take necessary actions to prevent erosion to their properties. Allowing our citizens to prevent erosion on their own, puts local Hawaiians to work, puts money back into the economy, and creates some erosion proof surfaces along our coast.

Preserving our coast is a huge, sustained expense which Hawaii cannot afford right now. The state is $1.4 billion short in operating revenue in 2020, and will be $2.4 billion short in

2021. This is all due in large part to Coronavirus; however, the state was already short $660 million before Coronavirus began. Already $78 million has been cut from the University of Hawaii’s budget and another $224 million for the public education budget. There is simply no state money available for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Due to lack of funds, the climate change empty can will be kicked down the road.

The political party that is able to embrace climate change as an opportunity to lower Hawaiian’s costs of living, keep taxes as they are, protect property rights, and create jobs to mitigate, reverse, and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, will be the political party that runs Hawaii.