The only climate skeptics I know are from TV – like incoming Senate leader Jim Inhofe who actually wrote a book on the climate “hoax.” Generally, I am skeptical about their skepticism. They will say just about anything to get the support they need to get elected right now. For the long run, they probably have a nice little piece of Arctic tundra picked out and paid for.
Those of us that sweltered through this last summer and fall are believers. Still, most people don’t realize how deep we are into climate change. Laymen still throw out statements about the mess we are leaving our children. Actually, most of us will get to experience the mayhem ourselves.
At a briefing at the legislature UH award-winning climate scientist Camilo Mora had distressing news about local temperature changes. In 15 years, we will reach our “climate departure”—the point when even the coolest days will be hotter than the hottest days in the last 150 years.
Work from Dr. Mora and others is found in a recent Sea Grant Report “Climate Change Impacts in Hawaii,” available online. It documents changes already measured over the last decades, and gives some general predictions on future impacts. Some highlights:
- While temperatures are increasing, trade winds are decreasing.
- The ocean surface is getting warmer and the ocean is absorbing much of the excess CO2, which has increased the acidity by 30%. This kills coral and other marine life.
- Less rainfall has reduced base stream flow that replenishes the aquifers and irrigates crops.
- There has been sea level rise resulting in beach erosion. Will tourists come to a Waikiki with no sand?
- There will be more frequent extreme events like hurricanes, increasing the odds of a direct hit.
The changes in motion will take time to reverse, even if we reduce our carbon emissions immediately. So we will have to combine mitigation (reducing green house gas emissions) with adaptation. Dr. Mora pointed out that native Hawaiian plants and animals can’t migrate, and evolution is a slow process, so their only option may be extinction. Fortunately, people are better at adapting.
I debated whether to break the news to my teenage boys. I don’t want to traumatize them, but then again, is it fair to keep information from them when their whole lives may be shaped by the consequences? Who am I to keep them from getting involved, and being part of the solution?
So, with a heavy heart I interrupted the simultaneous surf trifecta: pro surfing on TV, extreme surf videos on laptops, and even more extreme banter over their own surf exploits. Here is an excerpt of our conversation that shows how some are more focused on adaptation than mitigation.
Me: “No really, sea level will rise by 3 feet or more in your lifetime.”
My son: “So, what you are saying is that we will be surfing high-tide conditions all the time? Sweet.”