Hawaii is getting too hot to handle

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.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 8.31.36 AM


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.”


About Dr. Lisa Marten

I love my children, I love the ocean and the mountains, and I don't feel reducing my carbon footprint is enough anymore. I fear the things I love are at risk and I am doing all I can to learn more about how to stop that and to bring others along for the ride with me.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Hawaii is getting too hot to handle

  1. Kim Weaver says:

    It’s an interesting spectrum. There are the Inhofes who say “don’t do anything, everything is fine and it stretches around in a ring to the other end where people like Dr. Guy McPherson (Nature Bats Last) says live as well as you can for as long as you can, because there is nothing left to do. We’re in runaway greenhouse already.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s