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Climate Change Anticipated to Have Profound Effects on Hawaiian Islands

Climate change is anticipated to have profound effects in the Hawaiian Islands. Key indicators of the changing climate include rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rising air and sea temperatures, rising sea levels and upper-ocean heat content, changing ocean chemistry and increasing ocean acidity, changing rainfall patterns, decreasing base flow in streams, changing wind and wave patterns, changing extremes, and changing habitats and species distributions.

(All images & video courtesy: Hawai‘i DLNR)

(All images courtesy: Hawai‘i DLNR)

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, are increasing due to human activity.  Climate change has the potential to profoundly impact our wellbeing and way of life.  Dr. Chip Fletcher, from the University of Hawai‘i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology said, “Sea level rise is a special problem for Hawaiian coastal communities.  As seas rise, shoreline neighborhoods will experience increased exposure to storm surges, tsunamis, seasonal high waves, erosion, and groundwater inundation.  These lead to problems with beach loss, damage to roads and homes, flooding in urban areas, and rising economic and environmental losses.”

climate change via dlnr2The Hawaiʻi Climate Adaptation Initiative Act (Act 83) was signed into law in June 2014. Act 83 established an Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee (ICAC) to address the effects of climate change to protect the State’s economy, health, environment, and way of life.

Climate Change via dlnr3According to Sam Lemmo, the administrator of the DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands and ICAC co-chair, “The first task of our committee is to develop a statewide Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report (SLR Report) which is due to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature by the end of 2017. This report, which will be the first of its kind in Hawaiʻi State Government, will provide detailed maps to show the state’s most vulnerable areas for erosion and flooding that will likely take place in 2030, 2050, 2075 and 2100, and how it will affect our coastal areas and ultimately, our way of life.”

climate Change via dlnr4The SLR Report will include adaptation recommendations by sector and how to strategize and prioritize the movement of critical infrastructure and people over the next few decades.  Another important aspect of the Report process, the ICAC, and the Hawaiʻi Climate Adaptation Initiative is to create a framework for a State Climate Adaptation Plan that will improve coordination and organization of all climate adaptation efforts at the local, State, and federal levels for the Hawaiian Islands.

climate change via dlnr5The ICAC and the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation team are working to design a framework or blueprint for sea level rise adaptation that will provide the impetus for actions necessary to mitigate catastrophic social and economic effects resulting from rising seas.

Many Atolls May be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change

A new study shows that the combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on island atolls may be more severe and happen sooner than previous estimates of inundation predicted by passive “bathtub” modeling for low-lying atoll islands, and especially at higher sea levels forecasted for the future due to climate change.

Photograph showing the impact of a large wave at the south shore of Laysan Island, with endangered Laysan teal in the foreground. Location: Laysan Islands (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands). Location: Laysan Islands , HI, USA Date Taken: 2012 Photographer: Michele Reynolds Photographer Email: mreynolds@usgs.gov Photographer Organization: USGS

Photograph showing the impact of a large wave at the south shore of Laysan Island, with endangered Laysan teal in the foreground.
Location: Laysan Islands (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands).
Location: Laysan Islands , HI, USA
Date Taken: 2012
Photographer: Michele Reynolds
Photographer Email: mreynolds@usgs.gov
Photographer Organization: USGS

More than half a million people live on atolls throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and although the modeling was based on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the results from the study apply to almost all atolls.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists and their colleagues at the Deltares Institute in the Netherlands, and the Hawaii Cooperative Studies Unit at University of Hawaii, Hilo report that numerical modeling reveals waves will synergistically interact with sea level rise, causing twice as much land forecast to be flooded for a given future sea level than currently predicted by models that do not take wave-driven water levels into account.

Observations show global sea level is rising due to climate change, with the highest rates in the tropical Pacific Ocean where many of the world’s low-lying atolls are located. Sea level rise is particularly critical for low-lying coral reef-lined atoll islands; these islands have limited land and water available for human habitation, limited food sources and ecosystems that are vulnerable to inundation from sea level rise. Sea level rise will result in larger waves and higher wave-driven water levels along atoll islands’ shorelines than at present.

“Many atoll islands will be flooded annually, contaminating the limited freshwater resources with saltwater, and likely forcing inhabitants to abandon their islands in decades, not centuries, as previously thought,” said USGS geologist and lead author of the study, Curt Storlazzi.

The study explored the combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on atoll islands within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including Laysan and Midway Islands, which are home to many threatened and endangered endemic species. The same modeling approach is applicable to most populated atolls around the world.

The study, “Many Atolls May Be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change,” was recently published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal, and is available online.

Interior’s Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is awarding more than $700,000 to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

“Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country,” said Secretary Jewell. “These new studies, and others that are ongoing, will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change.”

The six funded studies will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and management actions that can be taken to help offset such change. They include:

Assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change in Hawai`i and other Pacific Island ecosystems by expanding and improving a novel model to identify which plants are vulnerable most to continuing change. This model, developed by federal, state and non-profit organizations, will allow project leads to respond to the needs of resource managers for such species vulnerability assessment to help inform adaptation decisions regionally and locally for some nearly 2000 plant species, and to prioritize their conservation actions.

Understanding how native and non-native Hawaiian forests will respond to climate change to help resource managers plan for and make effective adaptation and other decisions to slow the spread of invasive species and to keep Hawai`i’s native ecosystems, streams and forests healthy.

Assessing coral reef vulnerability in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific. Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to coral reefs and is expected to result in more frequent severe tropical storms and more frequent and severe coral bleaching events. Coral reefs are additionally stressed by human activities, including coastal development and overfishing. This project will assess the resilience potential of coral reefs in the Commonwealth; results will help managers target actions that support and build reef resilience.

Developing a pilot decision-support tool for coral reef management that can map, assess, value and simulate changes in ecosystem services under alternative climate scenarios and adaptation strategies. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems such as coral reefs, which provide recreation and food among other benefits. This tool will help decision makers understand the social and economic tradeoffs of their management and adaptation decisions.

Preparing for the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island coral reefs. The research team will use a system of models that will ultimately identify reef areas that are either vulnerable or resilient to the many stressors that the future may hold. Such models can identify areas that might benefit from management actions to minimize local stressors such as land-based pollution, and it will directly provide scientific knowledge to aid in planning for adaptation to climate change.

Providing the best possible projections of future climate change at a regional scale for the islands of Kaui`i and O`ahu. Although the Pacific Islands are notable in their vulnerability to climate change, they have received considerably less attention than more populated areas in climate models. This project will fill that gap in providing downscaled models that will be provided to resource managers for helping them make more effective planning and management decisions.

In Hawai`i and the Pacific Islands, changing climate already is a reality for urban and rural communities, cultural life ways and sites, watersheds, ecosystems and hundreds of imperiled species in this vast oceanic domain of island, atoll and marine ecosystems. “It is vital that we work on climate change effects now to better prepare our communities, ecosystems and species for the future,” said David Helweg, director of Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center. “These studies are designed for the people who need them: managers, policy makers, and community leaders already grappling with the effects of climate change.”

Each of the Department of the Interior’s eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, community leaders, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists and students from the universities that comprise the Pacific Islands CSC, from USGS science centers, and from other partners such as the State and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in the region.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center,located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior’s strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Hawai`i, Manoa, along with the University of Hawai`i, Hilo, and the University of Guam.

2013-2014 Coral Reef Resilience to Climate Change in CNMI; Field-based Assessments and Implications for Vulnerability and Future Management Laurie Raymundo (Marine Laboratory, University of Guam)
Jeffrey Mayndar (UNCW Center for Marine Science)
2013-2015 Expanding a Dynamic Model of Species Vulnerability to Climate Change for Hawai`i and Other Pacific Island Ecosystems Lucas Fortini (Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center (PIERC))
2013-2015 Future Coral Reef Community Projections of DOI-Managed Coastal Assets in the Hawaiian Islands Erik Franklin (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2015 Understanding the Response of Native and Non‐native Forests to Climate Variability and Change to Support Resource Management in Hawai`i Thomas Giambelluca (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2016 Valuing Climate Change Impacts on Coral Reef Ecosystem Services (Aloha InVest) Kirsten Oleson (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2015 Very Fine Resolution Dynamical Downscaling of Past and Future Climates for Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on the Islands of O`ahu and Kaua`i Yuqing Wang (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)

 

Senator Mazie Hirono Details How Climate Change is Already Having a Significant Impact on Hawaii

Senator Mazie K. Hirono warned that climate change is already having a significant impact on Hawaii and without coordinated government action will greatly harm the state’s well-being in the future during a hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Hirono Climate Change

At the hearing, titled “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now,” climate scientists and other experts testified on how climate change is already having an effect on U.S. weather patterns which in turn is leading to more frequent extreme weather and is negatively impacting communities and industries. This was Hirono’s first hearing as a member of the committee since being tapped temporarily to fill the vacancy left after New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg’s death.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/cpo5WSR1XRA]

“Climate change is the great challenge of our time. In Hawaii, we are already seeing the impact of climate change—both on land and in the ocean that surrounds us,” Hirono testified. “Rising ocean temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification pose serious risks to our economy and communities. For example, the sea level has risen in Hawaii at rate of 0.6 inches per decade over the past century. Research indicates that sea level may increase by 3 feet by the end of the century. This means that areas like Waikiki—a critical driver of Hawaii’s tourism economy—are likely to face serious flooding if sea level rise intensifies.”

Hirono noted that while Hawaii has seen a decrease in overall rainfall that it depends on for fresh water over the past twenty years, the state has seen a large increase in very heavy downpours that have caused major flooding. She detailed how the State of Hawaii is already taking action to respond to climate change but that national and global efforts are needed to truly address the problem.

“Hawaii has taken an aggressive approach toward addressing climate change. We have passed state laws limiting greenhouse gas emissions, promoting clean energy and energy efficiency, and a law to address climate change adaptation. These efforts are forward-looking, but support on the federal level is needed,” Hirono said.

Mazie Hirono speaks with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Mazie Hirono speaks with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

During the hearing, Hirono also questioned Reinsurance Association of America President Frank Nutter about how insurance companies are dealing with the increased threat of major weather events that climate change is causing. Nutter testified that the increasing severity of storms is causing rates to go up, especially in communities prone to flooding. Hirono cited the cautionary example of Hurricane Iniki, which caused such severe damage that the Hawaii government was forced to create the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund when insurance companies stopped writing and renewing hurricane insurance policies in Hawaii.

Hirono also voted today to confirm Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I am glad that my colleagues finally voted to confirm Gina McCarthy as EPA Administrator. McCarthy has a long record of fighting for cleaner air and energy efficiency, and she will serve as an important leader in our nation’s fight against climate change,” Hirono said after the vote.

The Fairmont Orchid Going Dark for Earth Hour

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii-a luxury AAA Four Diamond resort located on the Island of Hawaii is pleased to confirm its participation in Earth Hour 2012, a global environmental awareness event organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).  On Saturday March 31, 2012 at 8:30 p.m., more than 60 of Fairmont’s landmark hotels and resorts around the planet will participate by turning off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – and in doing so will reinforce the company’s pioneering commitment to operational sustainability and help draw further attention to one of the world’s single largest environmental issues: Climate Change.

The Fairmont Orchid

The AAA Four Diamond award winning Brown’s Beach House will utilize tea lights instead of electric votives and will feature sustainable fish and proteins paired with farm fresh produce.   The Fairmont Orchid mixologists will be on hand mixing cocktails from fruits and vegetables grown in the resort’s herb garden.  Dinner specials made from local organic produce will be offered in Norio’s Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar as well as Luana Lounge.  Complimentary stargazing will also be offered with local astronomer Wayne Fukunaga and his team from Star Gaze Hawaii.  The Island of Hawaii, amongst the most isolated areas of land on the planet, is well suited for stargazing and many of the world’s top observatories are located atop the well-known Mauna Kea, a short two hours’ drive from the resort.

Guests are encouraged to join in on the Earth Hour celebration by turning off any lights in their guest rooms and colleagues are asked to celebrate Earth Hour by turning their lights off at home.

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii is an active participant in Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ Green partnership program.  A wide range of programs are in place from support for local, sustainable agriculture through innovative partnerships with farmers, growers and distributors to ongoing water quality monitoring of the oceanfront Pauoa Bay through a cooperative grant with the University of Hawaii at Hilo Marine Sciences Department.  The employee-driven Green Committee actively seeks new ways to minimize the hotel’s impact on the fragile island eco-system by reducing waste i.e., offering canvas bags for groceries, sourcing energy-efficient lighting; recycling and water use reduction with linen exchange programs.  The resort also donates its cafeteria food wastes to a local pig farmer.

For more information on Fairmont’s Green Partnership program and the company’s industry leading environmental initiatives, please visit www.fairmont.com/environment.

University of Hawaii Selected to Host Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced three universities selected to host the Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers (CSCs) for the Northeast, South Central, and Pacific Islands regions. The three locations complete the national network of eight CSCs that will serve to provide land managers in federal, state and local agencies access to the best science available regarding climate change and other landscape-scale stressors. Secretary Salazar also announced today the permanent directors for three existing CSCs.

Near-shore habitat at Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific. Low-elevation islands in the Pacific and elsewhere face particular challenges due to the sea level rise effects of climate change.

“Selecting the locations for the final three of our eight Climate Science Centers is a major milestone in our efforts to implement our department-wide climate change strategy,” Secretary Salazar said. “The nationwide network of Climate Science Centers will provide the scientific talent and commitment necessary for understanding how climate change and other landscape stressors will change the face of the United States, and how the Department of the Interior, as our nation’s chief steward of natural and cultural resources, can prepare and respond.”

The three universities announced today are:

  • The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which will host the Northeast Climate Science Center;
  • The University of Oklahoma, which will host the South Central Climate Science Center; and
  • The University of Hawaii-Manoa in Honolulu, which will host the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center.

Salazar noted that the CSCs will expand climate science capabilities without building new facilities or duplicating existing capabilities. Each CSC has a consortium of partners facilitating collaboration across the entire science community and expanding the expertise available to the CSC. The South Central CSC Consortium, for example, includes 30 departments within 4 universities.

Hypersaline lake and mudflats on Laysan (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands). The Laysan Albatross is a sea bird that is largely restricted to breeding in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and is likely to be impacted by sea-level rise.

The CSCs announced today also have significant participation from tribal communities. The Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma are partners for the South Central Center, which will include support for a tribal sustainability officer, and the College of Menominee Nation is a partner for the Northeast CSC.

Secretary Salazar also announced the first permanent directors for three existing CSCs today:

  • Dr. Gerard McMahon has been selected as the Director for the Southeast Climate Science Center. McMahon served as team leader of a national study of the effects of urban development conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Assessment Program.
  • Dr. Stephen Gray has been selected as the Director of the Alaska Climate Science Center. Gray previously served as the Director of the University of Wyoming Water Resources Data System and the Wyoming State Climatologist.
  • Dr. Gustavo Bisbal has been selected as Director of the Northwest Climate Science Center. Before this appointment he served in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science at the U.S. Department of State.

The scientific priorities and agendas of each CSC will be decided in consultation with the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) in their respective regions – which are also part of the department’s coordinated climate change strategy – as well as with other scientists and land managers. The nationwide network of LCCs engages federal agencies, local and state partners, and the public in crafting practical, landscape-level strategies for managing climate change and other landscape-scale stressors impacting the nation’s natural and cultural resources.

Laysan teal (Anas layanensis) on Laysan, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) foraging on brine flies (Scatella sexnotata) on the mudflats of the atoll. Photo by M. Reynolds, USGS

The CSCs will serve as regional hubs of the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. USGS is taking the lead on establishing the CSCs and providing initial staffing. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient.

A list of the eight regional Climate Science Centers follows:

  • The Alaska Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in Anchorage.
  • The Southeast Climate Science Center is hosted by North Carolina State University
  • The Northwest Climate Science Center is supported by a consortium of three universities–Oregon State University, University of Washington and the University of Idaho.
  • The Southwest Climate Science Center has six host organizations: University of Arizona, Tucson; University of California, Davis; University of California, Los Angeles; Desert Research Institute, Reno; University of Colorado, Boulder ; and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego.
  • The North Central Climate Science Center is headed by Colorado State University and includes the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wyoming, Montana State University, University of Montana, Kansas State University, and Iowa State University.
  • The Northeast Climate Science Center will be hosted by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, with the College of Menominee Nation, Columbia University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri-Columbia, and University of Wisconsin-Madison serving as consortium partners.
  • The South Central Climate Science Center will be hosted by the University of Oklahoma, with Texas Tech University, Louisiana State University, The Chickasaw Nation, The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory serve as consortium partners.
  • The Pacific Islands Climate Science Center will be hosted by the University of Hawaii – Manoa in Honolulu, with the University of Hawaii-Hilo and the University of Guam as consortium partners.

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii Goes Dark to Shed Light on Climate Change

Media Release:

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii -a luxury AAA Four Diamond resort located on the Island of Hawai’i is pleased to confirm its participation in Earth Hour 2011, a global environmental awareness event organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).  On Saturday March 26, 2011 at 8:30 p.m., all 60 of Fairmont’s landmark hotels and resorts around the planet will participate by turning off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – and in doing so will reinforce the company’s pioneering commitment to operational sustainability and help draw further attention to one of the world’s single largest environmental issues: Climate Change.

Guests of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii will be able to celebrate Earth Hour by enjoying complimentary hot chocolate and cookies around an open fire pit oceanside underneath the stars.  Complimentary stargazing will be offered with local astronomer Wayne Fukunaga and his team from Star Gaze Hawaii . The Big Island , amongst the most isolated areas of land on the planet, is well suited for stargazing and many of the world’s top observatories are located atop the well-known Mauna Kea , a short two hours’ drive from the resort.

Guests may dine by candlelight at Brown’s Beach House, the resort’s signature oceanfront restaurant featuring sustainable, organically grown offerings from the Big Island of Hawaii.  Guests are encouraged to join in on the Earth Hour celebration by turning off any lights in their guest rooms and colleagues are asked to celebrate Earth Hour by turning their lights off at home.

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii is an active participant in Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ Green partnership program.  A wide range of programs are in place from support for local, sustainable agriculture through innovative partnerships with farmers, growers and distributors to ongoing water quality monitoring of our oceanfront Pauoa Bay through a cooperative grant with the University of Hawaii at Hilo Marine Sciences Department.  The employee-driven Green Committee actively seeks new ways to minimize the hotel’s impact on the fragile island eco-system by reducing waste i.e., offering canvas bags for groceries, sourcing energy-efficient lighting; recycling and water use reduction with linen exchange programs.  The resort also donates its cafeteria food wastes to a local pig farmer.

Earth Hour is a global WWF climate change initiative. Individuals, businesses, governments and communities are invited to turn out their lights for one hour to show their support for action on climate change.  The event began in Sydney in 2007, when 2 million people switched off their lights. In 2008, more than 50 million people, including several Fairmont hotels around the globe, participated.  In 2010, hundreds of millions of people and over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet.

With a long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible tourism, Fairmont is a strong supporter of WWF, participating in many of their campaigns, as well as being a member of their global Climate Savers program.  For the past two decades, Fairmont has been dedicated to preserving the places in which we live, work and play through its Green Partnership Program.  Expanding on this 20-year commitment, Fairmont will continue to actively support a sustainable future and a low carbon economy, understanding that ultimately, we are all in this together.

For more information on Fairmont ’s Green Partnership program and the company’s industry leading environmental initiatives, please visit www.fairmont.com/environment.

Syd Singer on the Continuation of the Mangrove Lawsuit

Commentary by Syd Singer:

A public meeting was scheduled by Mayor Kenoi to discuss the controversial mangrove eradication and poisoning project that has now left over 30 acres of mangroves dead and rotting along the Puna coastline. The meeting, scheduled for July 31 at the Pahoa Community Center, was the first chance given to the public to comment on and question the project.

But the meeting never happened. Malama o Puna, the organization spearheading the poisoning, backed out at the last minute, causing the County to cancel the meeting, according to Hunter Bishop, spokesperson for Mayor Kenoi.

The public is left with an ugly, poisoned shoreline and still without any voice on the issue.

The 30 acres of mangroves now stand dead and defoliated along the sensitive Big Island coastline, left to rot over the years and blighting what had been beautiful, treasured areas. Wai Opae (which is the popular snorkeling area in Kapoho), Pohoiki (also called Isaac Hale Beach Park), Paki Bay, and Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo have all been poisoned.

There was no public hearing or public comment period allowed for this mangrove eradication project, which was done with the cooperation of the DLNR, County of Hawaii, and Big Island Invasive Species Committee. There was no environmental assessment or environmental impact statement prepared. For most residents who frequent these areas, awareness of the project began when they noticed the mangroves were dying and brown scum was floating on the water. Heaps of dead leaves from the defoliated trees still line the high tide mark.

A public protest against the mangrove poisoning was held in January, 2010, and the controversy was reported in the media. But Malama o Puna refused to stop the poisoning.

A citizen lawsuit was filed in February to get an injunction to stop the poisoning until an environmental assessment was done. Despite requests that they stop their work, Malama o Puna continued with their poisoning, killing 7 acres of mangroves at Pohoiki and 3-4 acres of mangroves at Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo while the lawsuit proceeded.

A ruling has just been made on the lawsuit, which continues in Third Circuit Court in Hilo. The Court has ruled that it is too late to sue Malama o Puna for not doing an environmental assessment. This does not mean Malama o Puna did not have to do an environmental assessment. It just means that it was too late to have the issue considered by the Court.

Attorneys for defendants Malama o Puna, DLNR, and County of Hawaii tried to get the case dismissed, claiming that private citizens cannot sue for violations of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, or Hawaii Pesticide law. But the Court reaffirmed that the public has a right to a clean and healthy environment, as provided in the Hawaii Constitution Article Xl, Section 9, and that all citizens have a right to sue to protect those environmental rights.

The lawsuit now will focus on whether Malama o Puna violated clean water regulations and threatened endangered species that are known to use the poisoned areas. No further hearings are scheduled at this time.

Ironically, mangroves may be the best species for Hawaii’s subsiding coastline, especially given the climate change predictions coming from the Hawaii government and environmental groups that the oceans are rising. Mangroves protect the shoreline from erosion, storm surge, and tsunamis. In fact, mangroves have been shown to save lives.

Unfortunately, while recognizing climate change is the environmental issue of our time, some environmental groups and government agencies have not yet realized the implications climate change has for “invasive” species control. Climate change is an inconvenient truth for those who want to save native species that thrived in the past but which may not survive in today’s and tomorrow’s altered environment. Introduced species which grow well here may belong to the Hawaii of the future. Today’s “invasive” species may become tomorrow’s “invaluable” species.

This especially applies to mangroves, considered by the Nature Conservancy in its Summer, 2010 magazine as one of the most valuable and beneficial species in the world. Mangroves may prove critical to shoreline protection in Hawaii as the oceans rise and the land sinks.

While their presence in Hawaii is controversial, as is the use of powerful poisons to kill the mangroves and leave them rotting along the shoreline, the public will not have an opportunity to comment on this eradication. And while the County meeting was too little, too late, it was at least an attempt to include the public. But now, even that attempt has been poisoned.

For more information, see www.mangrovelawsuit.com.

Sydney Ross Singer

P.O. Box 1880, Pahoa, Hawai 96778

Syd Singer on Climate Change and Conservation

How Climate Change Can Change Conservation:  From “Invasive” to “Invaluable”

Commentary by Syd Singer:

Change is in the air – and in the sea and on the land.  In fact, the entire planet is undergoing a transformation called climate change.

Temperatures will rise, along with humidity and the level of the oceans.  Storms will be more severe, along with droughts and floods.  Animals and plants and microorganisms will have to adapt to survive.  Some species will not make it.  Others will evolve and adapt to the new, changing ecosystem conditions.

However, despite all this change that is acknowledged and feared by governments throughout the world, there has been no change in the way we conserve our natural resources and protect endangered species.

The goal of modern conservation goes beyond protection of forests and wild spaces from development and pollution.  Today’s conservationists fight to protect and preserve native ecosystems and native species against “invasive” species.  The goal is to return “invaded” ecosystems to their condition prior to the introductions of highly competitive “alien” species that have altered the environmental landscape.

Essentially, conservationists and preservationists are resisting environmental change.

In the past, environmental managers introduced species into new environments to increase biodiversity and  resource values of forests and other natural areas.  They valued species for their ability to grow well in their new environments.   Now, however, they call these thriving introduced species “invasive”, and introduce insects, fungi, or other biocontrol pests to slow down their growth, or kill them with poisons, chainsaw, or bulldozers.

The hope is that by eliminating species that “don’t belong” in a certain ecosystem, we can return that ecosystem to a more natural, balanced state where native species and endangered species can thrive without competition from  introductions.

However, climate change is a deal breaker for all conservation strategies.

Climate change means that native species that once thrived in past ecosystems may be threatened with extinction in the near future.  Every species of plant, insect, mammal, bird, fungus, bacteria, and even virus will be impacted by these changes in the conditions of life.  Native ecosystems existed in a different world of the past, with different conditions than we have today and will have tomorrow.

Climate change means you can never go back to the way it was centuries ago.  Today’s and tomorrow’s forests, coastal ecosystems, and oceans may not support yesterday’s species.  And this change is now fast upon us.

Changing conditions will lead to a rebalancing of the entire food chain.  Some dominant species that preferred the old conditions will fall, and new species that thrive on the change will take their place.

In short, this is a time of rapid evolution.  It is a time to look forward, not backward.

As we assess species for their ability to survive and thrive in the new environmental conditions that are coming, we may discover that some species currently considered “invasive” for their ability to grow well are actually “invaluable” for being able to keep natural areas forested into the future, and our oceans vital and healthy.

The goal of environmental management should be to have healthy, vital ecosystems, regardless of the nativity of the species creating them.  We cannot afford to attack introduced species for growing well and outcompeting native species.  This ability to survive and thrive may make them invaluable in the future.

Those conservationists and preservationists who want to maintain native species and native ecosystems can fence, weed and manage areas that can serve as museums of the past biological world.   But such natural preserve areas will require constant commitment of resources in an endless battle against the tide of climate change.

More importantly, we need to plant for the future, not weed for the past.  We need to stop killing the fittest and saving the least fit, or the future forests will consist solely of weak and unhealthy trees.  We need to value trees for growing well, and not just for being native, ensuring that we will still have forests to clean the air, remove carbon dioxide, and provide resources for man and wildlife as the climate changes.

Conservationism itself must change, evolving from an environmental philosophy that fights change into one that embraces and manages it.

The past is done.  Climate change is now giving us a new world unfolding before our eyes.  Either we fight the inevitable changes kicking and screaming for a lost past, or we plan for a better future by surfing the wave of change.

I say let’s surf!

Rethink on Behalf of the Indigenous People

Fiu Mataese is the Executive Director of the Siosiomaga Society (OLSSI) a nature conservation organization based in Samoa.

Fiu also helped provide leadership for the Pacific delegation to the first ever Summit on climate change for Indigenous Peoples held in Anchorage Alaska during the month of April 2009.

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Aqua/AIRS Carbon Dioxide with Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Overlaid

This visualization is a time-series of the global distribution and variation of the concentration of mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide observed by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on the NASA Aqua spacecraft. For comparison, it is overlain by a graph of the seasonal variation and interannual increase of carbon dioxide observed at the Mauna Loa, Hawaii observatory.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Scientific Visualization Studio

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Campaigning for Climate Change, Sen. Gary Hooser Takes Part in Local Events

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(left to right) State Senate Majority leader, Sen. Gary Hooser, Congressman Ed Case, and event organizer Keith Rose

Media Release:

After fighting against furloughs this past week, State Senate Majority leader, Gary Hooser was working this weekend to take part in the International Day of Climate Change and campaign against carbon emissions. He was joined by Congressman Ed Case and over one hundred Oahu residents for a rally and 350.org photograph at the State Capitol on Saturday.

 

“The effects of climate change and sea level rise are increasingly evident in our island ecosystems.  We see it on our coral reefs, shorelines and native forests,” said Sen. Hooser.

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Sen. Hooser speaks before rally attendees

Over twenty years ago, NASA scientist named James Hansen found that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was the limit for a habitable planet. The Hawaii state capitol rally was part of an “international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis–the solutions that science and justice demand,” according to the 350.org website.

 

“As a State Senator and as Lieutenant Governor, I aim to make energy independence and earth friendly programs a priority,” said Sen. Hooser. He also urged attendees to be active in their practice of sustainable living personally, socially and politically. “It will take committed leadership at all levels – at the government level, in the halls of business, in our schools and most importantly within our community itself,” he said.

Also on Saturday, Hooser participated in The Blue Planet Foundation’s Blue Line Project that marked the potential effects of sea level rise, if action is not taken by the international community to combat climate change.

Local conservation advocate, Marjorie Ziegler called Sen. Hooser a friend of the environment and added that he “understands the importance of protecting Hawaii’s natural environment and is willing to take the tough stands needed to preserve our fragile coastlines, streams and mountain areas.”

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Oahu residents participate in the International Day of Climate Change at the State Capitol on Saturday, October 24. Sen. Gary Hooser is pictured center, holding a white 350 sign.

“I think that Gary is a real sustainability candidate,” said Andrea Dean, a sustainable business advocate. “He can use the platform of Lieutenant Governor to move our state forward in ways that balance our economy and our environment.”

One of the most recent examples of Hooser’s leadership in advocating for sustainable practices is his authorship of the Solar Mandate Bill, requiring all new homes built in Hawai’i after January 1, 2010 to have a solar hot water heater or other highly efficient system installed. “Solar Hot water is a low-hanging fruit. Its a simple and affordable, proven technology that should be on top of everyone’s house. The technology and solutions are out there to reduce our dependency on energy that is harmful to our islands and harmful to our planet,” said Sen. Hooser. “Its a great policy that puts Hawaii on the map for green technology innovation,” he added. Sen. Hooser, also aims for his 2010 campaign for Lt. Governor to be the first ever in Hawai’i to go carbon neutral to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight global climate change.

Recently, two former directors of the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club, Jeff Mikulina (1998-2008) and David Kimo Frankel (1996-1998), endorsed Senator Gary Hooser for Lt. Governor in 2010.

“As someone who has been active in advocating for Hawaii’s sustainability for over a decade, I’m supporting Gary Hooser for Lt. Governor,” said Mikulina. “Gary has earned my support through his honest, thoughtful, and smart approach to leadership and policymaking. He’s not afraid to make the tough political decisions that will benefit many–today and tomorrow. ”

David Kimo Frankel, recounting his years of lobbying for the Sierra Club had shown him that “there are not many people who can successfully navigate the system with integrity, intelligence and a progressive ideology. Gary Hooser is the kind of person we need at the statewide level here in Hawai`i,” he said.