Hawaii responds to global warming threat against Waikiki beach

Island of O'ahu, Hawaii. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Island of O’ahu, Hawaii. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Climate scientists have issued frequent warning about the effects of rising sea levels from global warming on cities such as Miami and New York.

But among the first places in the U.S. that may suffer the effects of climate change could be Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, according to a 2017 report by the Hawaii Climate Commission report, which showed that the island’s famous beaches are likely to be under water in the next 15 to 20 years.

In one of the first measures of its kind in the U.S., the Hawaii legislature has passed a bill to establish a flood protection zone on Oahu to protect the Honolulu and its beaches from flooding, provide access to communities that could be cut off by climate change, and make those communities self-sustaining. 

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After passing both houses, the bills are being reconciled in committee before being sent back for a final vote and the governor’s signature.

The bill plans for, essentially a dike that would be integrated into shoreline parks and urban landscape and suited to local neighborhoods it passes through.

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As an archipelago sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii, by necessity, has been in the forefront of efforts in the U.S. to address climate change, and has one of the highest concentrations of electric cars in the country.

Democratic State Rep. Chris Lee, one of the bill’s primary co-sponsors and chairman of the state’s Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, noted to CNN that the state has set targets to reach 100 percent renewable energy, passed in 2015, and move to a carbon-neutral economy by 2045, and to eliminate fossil fuels from ground transportation in the state.

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In Washington, the Green New Deal provision to move to 100 percent renewable energy has proved to be one of the measure’s most controversial proposals. In Hawaii, Lee says, utilities expected it to cost billions of dollars. But when they put pen to paper, they found it will save state residents $5.5 billion.

Getting to 100 percent renewable electric power would allow electric cars to be completely carbon free.

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