Doorway

A Long Hot Summer is Over – What’s Next?

After the devastating 2015 bleaching event that wiped out nearly 90% of West Hawaii’s coral (comprised primarily of the Pocilloporidae coral family) there were doubts if the West Hawaii’s reef would ever recover.

Hopeful signs of some recovery were reported in a West Hawaii Today article last year.  It painted a highly optimistic outlook for coral recovery.  Divers and snorkelers reported sightings of “baby” coral sprouting up within areas of the West Hawaii Island reef system.

This spring, Hawaii’s waters resumed their seasonal heating..  This fall, preliminary observations of coral recovery are being replaced by an acknowledgement that “there are further signs of bleaching and coral death” , while the statements of “coral recovery” are now silent.

What has and is being observed in our local ocean are random and limited areas of new coral growth, once healthy, now as baby coral turning an unnatural bright pink, and other corals, now freshly bleach white – a total absence of color.  These are signs of a dead and dying coral reef, and signs of the changes to a local marine environment worth more than all the Westside hotels.

This fall (2019) researchers observed and recorded in the West the hardy Porites Lobata — the mostly survivable and heat tolerant coral, aka smooth yellow and purple corals, these too now are beginning to show signs of abnormal stress.

For more than 200 years, or since the industrial revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased due to the burning of fossil fuels. The ocean absorbs about 30 percent of all CO2 released into the atmosphere, and as levels of atmospheric CO2 increase so does the water level of the ocean.  With oceans absorbing about 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere a day, seas have already become warmer and 30 per cent more acidic over the past two centuries.

(These changes in ocean chemistry can affect the behavior of non-calcifying organisms as well. Certain fish’s ability to detect predators is decreased in more acidic waters. When these organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk. Ocean acidification is affecting the entire world’s oceans, including coastal estuaries and waterways. Many economies are dependent on fish and shellfish and people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein — NOAA.)

Shell-forming creatures from oysters to types of plankton are increasingly at risk from the changes, which have been called the “evil twin” – along with higher temperatures – of climate change. Carbonate ions are an important building block of structures such as sea shells and coral skeletons. Decreases in carbonate ions can make building and maintaining shells and other calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying organisms such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton.

The climate crisis now unfolding in the world’s oceans and ice caps with outcomes is something we humans are only beginning to understand; e.g., melting permafrost venting massive amounts of methane, the acidification of ocean water, dwindling marine life at all levels, and last but certainly not least, water temperatures on the rise generating more intense storms with more costly storm surge impacts. Here in Hawaii we will find ourselves staring down a Cat 5 Hurricane in the near future, and we are presently ill prepared for the consequences.

But far worse is the need for urgent action to address the problem source by significantly reducing and then eliminating global fossil fuel emissions (here, there, and everywhere).

A 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, with 193 member nations), says that “all people on Earth depend directly or indirectly on the ocean” (a fact we are most familiar with here in Hawaii), and that ice caps and glaciers regulate the climate and provide water and oxygen.

The IPCC report finds unprecedented and dangerous changes being driven by global warming (heating), with sea level rise and coral bleaching at the top of the cause and effect list.

In fact sea level rise is no longer relegated to a future prediction but is now happening.

The sea level around Hilo Bay, Hawaii, has risen by 10 inches since 1950. Its speed of rise has accelerated over the last ten years and it’s now rising by about 1 inch every 4 years… (sea level is measured every 6 minutes using equipment like satellites, floating buoys off the coast, and tidal gauges to accurately measure the local sea level as it accelerates and changes).

Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts within the next 20-30 years, no matter whether climate heating (fossil fuel) emissions are curbed or not, according the world’s scientists. We are now on the track of mitigation and preparedness, and not the full reversal of the global warming impacts already in the pipeline.

The Earth’s oceans are getting hotter, more acidic and less oxygenated.  All these trends will continue through the end of the century, the IPCC reported.  Translated, we humans created the problems of local and global impacts on fisheries and marine ecosystems, and we are ignoring the opportunities to course-correct at our own peril.

The eventual sea level rise of more than 13 feet (4 meters), worst case analysis, will redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people, and affect the residents, economy, and environment of Hawai’i.

Noaa 2018 19 Coral Bleaching Graph

Divers and snorkelers have reported sightings of “baby” coral sprouting up within areas of the West Hawaii Island reef system last year.  This spring, Hawaii’s waters resumed their seasonal (and most recently, supercharged) heating..  This fall, preliminary observations of coral recovery were replaced with an acknowledgement of “… further signs of bleaching and coral death”. Statements of a “coral recovery” are now but all forgotten.

What has and is being observed in our local ocean are random and limited areas of new coral growth, once healthy, now with unnatural bright pink coloring, and others bleach white with a total absent of color.  Other reef observations this fall (2019) recorded the Westside’s hardy Porites Lobata – the mostly survivable and heat tolerant of local coral (aka smooth yellow and purple corals), is beginning to show signs of abnormal stress.

Altogether, these are signs of a dead and dying coral reef which is essential to our local marine environment and worth more than all of Hawaii county’s west side hotels put together.

Young Coral Die Off North KonaFar worse than these state-wide signs of warming impacts, would be to ignore, deny, or just Talk Story empty political platitudes not accompanied with meaningful actions to cut and eliminate statewide our fossil fuel emissions. All of the world’s scientific validation and warnings are useless if we fail to act meaningfully, and fail to effectively address what scientists are calling our current path to the “sixth global extinction”.

A general scientific consensus concludes: “The current biological annihilation obviously will have serious ecological, economic and social consequences. Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.”

The IPCC climate data on sea level rise, projects a worst case scenario of more than 13 feet (4 meters)rise.  An outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people and our island state residents, economy, and environment which are now in the cross-hairs of an emerging climate crisis.

 

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THREE BIG IDEAS

FOR LAND USE THAT COULD TURN THE CLIMATE TIDE

“Land provides the principal basis for human livelihoods and well-being, including the supply of food, freshwater and multiple other ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity.”

https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/three-big-ideas-land-use-could-turn-climate-tide

 

 

No Planet B Sign

Global Strike for Climate Action

Starting today, all over the world, millions of people, young and old alike, will be walking out of their workplaces, schools and homes in solidarity with young people who have been striking for climate justice for over a year.

Once in a generation comes a leader like no other

When it comes to the global threat to the earth’s ecosystems and its inhabitants, including humans, today’s Climate Crisis can no longer be denied or ignored.  No one makes the case better for global and immediate action than Greta Thunberg.

Greta Thunberg (16 years old) sailed to New York in her father’s emissions-free sail boat to give her Climate speech before the UN, September 2019. She was widely quoted and highly edited in the media, and her short message to the entire UN assembly was, in a word, powerful.

But it was Greta’s previous presentation at R20 World Summit earlier the same year that told of a more complex and complete truth-telling of today’s Climate Crisis.   In clear-eyed and nonsense way, Greta left global leaders standing on their feet applauding.  As time runs out — her message to world leaders is clear enough, pick your Climate action priorities, but act now!

A symbol and effective spokesperson for this public upraising and global strike, Greta has galvanized the youth of the world – an inspiration to us all… Greta

As a key witnesses testifying earlier this week before a joint hearing of two House committees on the “global climate crisis”, the 16-year-old Swede had a simple message for American lawmakers: Do something.

Instead of planning a lengthy opening statement to start the hearing, Greta Thunberg simply offered a copy of the 2018 global warming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that emphasizes the dire threat that human-caused global warming poses, along with the climate and economic impacts.

“I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me,” Thunberg told lawmakers. “I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action.”

Greta’s message has not been lost of Hawaii’s residents who will have an opportunity to participate in multi-island strike for climate actions across our state beginning today on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, and continuing through this weekend.

 

Climate Protest 2

Hawaii Island climate strike events scheduled for this weekend to include:

WAIMEACLIMATE STRIKE ACTIVITIES

Today – Friday, Sept 20th,  4-6pm  — Church Row corner of Mamalahoa Hwy and Church Road

North Hawaii Action Network, Maddie Turner, madeleinegail@gmail.com

 

HILO – CLIMATE STRIKE  ACTIVITIES
Friday, September 20, 2019  3:00 PM — Kamehameha Statue, 780 Kamehameha Ave,  Hilo, HI 96727

Today – Friday Sept 20: Official Strike Week Kickoff – 3pm-6pm Official Strike / Solidarity Signwaving by King Kamehameha Statue – Pu’uhonua Pu’uhuluhulu Climate and Oiwi Justice Talks – Mauna Kea

Saturday Sept 21: Honokaa Peace Day Parade Climate Contingent 10am-12 Wear Green and bring fossil free transport (bikes, skateboards etc)

Malama Äina Day – a day dedicated to caring for the land with Native and Beneficial Tree Planting 10am – RSVP by emailing pohahaikalani@gmail.com – Pu’uhonua Pu’uhuluhulu Climate and Oiwi Justice Talks – Mauna Kea

Sunday Sept 22: Honokaa Hamakua Harvest 5yr celebration 9-2pm Special Climate Emergency/Green New Deal Talk Story at 1pm

Malama Äina day with PÅ’Ä’Ä I Ka Lani (with Surfrider and Sea Cleaners), caring for the land with Native and Beneficial Tree Planting 10am – till pau, meet at Koa’ekea (Waipi’o Lookout) bring sunscreen, hats, water, snacks and aloha.

Dirty Power Plant Emissions

Hu Honua 2019 – burning trees for power – Update

The Hu Honua saga continues…

As BeyondKona reported last October in Hawai’i Today (https://www.beyondkona.com/trick-or-treat-a-hu-honua-decision-halloween-2018/), HELCO’s decision to buy power, and thus enable, the controversial (yet to be activated) tree destroying and wood-burning Hu Honua power plant is one example of Hawai’i Island being on the wrong path in its transition to clean energy.

Hu Honua is based on a state-sanctioned renewable energy loophole which allows for wood-burning biomass power plants. Not all biomass projects are created equal, it’s just that Hu Honua is a really bad example of the controversy surrounding biomass energy.

In short, Hu Honua is bad for Hawaii’s environment, bad for ratepayers, and bad for HELCO which has at its disposal far superior and cost effective zero-emissions power options which are available today — options which won’t add to global warming emissions, produce or emit pollution by-products; as is the case with the Hu Honua power plant.

The Hu Honua is a one of kind power plant project for Hawai’i Island.  The kind you would expect to find in marginally developed areas of the world with limited power options, not certainly not Hawai’i rich in sun and wind energy, and energy storage options.

The public subsidy of biomass facilities is neither sustainable, green, nor cost-effective.

In the case of the Hu Honua Bioenergy facility, burning trees for power is not only unnecessary, it’s just wrong-headed and poses health and environmental threats to area residents of Hawai’i Island from airborne pollutants and GHG biomass emissions.

The HELCO – HuHonua partnership was a bad deal from the start;  for both HELCO ratepayers and Hawaii’s taxpayers while carrying with it an unnecessary high environmental price tag for energy.  Hu Honua originally planned to secure a $100,000,000 Federal tax credit, in addition to Hawai’i state subsidies.  Although federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for Biomass Projects expired, the Internal Revenue Service has a Safe Harbor program for biomass projects under construction, which may be applicable to Hu Honua, if they ever become operational.

Fast forward today, the state PUC has been forced, through public interest legal action to re-open its earlier Hu Honua Bioenergy facility approval decision, which did not consider the absence of a required environmental review and full consideration in the PUC – Hu Honua approval decision.  In this case, it allowed the applicant (Hu Honua) to shift their environmental impact reporting responsibility to other state agencies that were scheduled to review the project only after the PUC approval.

Process, and the order in which review and decision processes occur can significantly effect the outcome of matters of public interest as is case with Hu Honua’s future.  There are many considerations, as the public discovered after the original PUC approval decision, beyond the simple fact that Hu Honua does not burn fossil fuel to produce power on behalf of Hawai’i Island’s ratepayers…

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

We could go much deeper in making our case why HuHonua is bad for Hawai’i Island, but the following graphic says it all…

Hu Honua Graph In Total

Morrish Idol Mk Reef

Sustainability is Mauō 

Sustainability — more than just a word

The Hawaiian word for sustainability is mauō is made up of two basic words; mau, stability, unbroken continuity, and ō, enduring.   This new Hawaiian word was coined by the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee in 2016, because previously there was no need for the word mauō as it was a normal part of Hawaiian life.

Sustainability in Hawaii is a term that is bandied about with great relish, and there is no shortage of talk story on the subject.  It seems like every governmental agency and non-profit, from the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, to Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), to big name developers like A&B have used this euphemism as a way of supplanting serious public conversations about living in balance with nature, and the essential role it plays beyond resource extraction and consumption.

In the words of political ecologist Paul Hawken, “The dirty secret of environmentalism is that ‘sustainability’ is an insufficient objective.”

In a world overtaken by the certainty of global warming, ‘sustainability,’ even when taken a step beyond lip service, can no longer be taken seriously.

From Alaska to Europe, the world has spent the past few weeks roasting under temperatures never before seen in recorded history.  Alaska has hit all-time-high record temperatures according to the National Weather Service.Euro Gw Chart1

Meanwhile, hot winds blowing north from the Sahara have been sending temperatures in Europe to soar to record highs.

It was Europe’s record three-degree temperature spike this past week  that brought global temperatures to their recorded-history highs.

Hawai’i, like the rest of the world has been overtaken by the certainty of global warming and its consequences.

So when we speak about ‘sustainability,’ even when taken a step beyond lip service, can the meaning and purpose of sustainability continue to be taken seriously?

To Fish or Not to Fish, the Question is Bigger Than That

Six months ago it was widely reported that many reefs in West Hawai’i, previously devastated by a major 2015 bleaching event have stabilized, and as reported at the time was the “first step toward recovery.”  Beyond the happy headlines, the same researchers noted that much remains to be done in the region with more frequent and severe bleaching events anticipated in the future – an understatement at best.

Recent observations of the reef system between North Kona and South Kohala indicated that some baby coral recovery sighting from earlier this year are now showing signs of stress and bleaching.

Stabilization is often associated with sustainability, as in things are bad, but relax, they won’t get worse. As if this was a cause for celebration.  Perhaps, when 90% of Cauliflower coral, once the state’s most abundant shallow water species, is nearly wiped out during a 2015 bleaching event, and then there still hope that tomorrow will bring recovery. New Coral Bleaching 2019

“Some bleaching in the environment is considered normal, but it has been happening more and more often,” said NOAA officials who announced last week to update this summer a survey of Hawaii’s ocean floors, which have not been updated since the 1940s.

In the local community there is always hope that Hawaii’s reef system will recover, and soon. But the bland assertions of DLNR (Dept. of Land and Natural Resources) when it relates specifically to this precious and fragile marine environment and resource is another matter when it comes to Hawaii Island’s ‘aquarium trade’ – in effect a for-free business model of reef wildlife collection for profit.

The adopted DLNR lexicon of ‘sustainability’; “sustainable catch”, “sustainable collection”, are the agency’s catchall terms used to define what has become the ultimate defense of disputed harvest numbers and unseen resource extraction practices of Hawaii’s reef fish. All together it has proven to be a meaningless set of terms designed for public consumption, not regulation.  It’s no wonder that DLNR’s management policies have proven to be impossible to enforce — perhaps that was their intent all along.  All the while the aquarium ‘trade’ operators continue to assure the public and the politicians that they are doing just fine by ‘self-regulating’.

The state could undertake practices to enable sustainability of Hawaii’s reef marine environment, but this will require political leadership so far that has been lacking in the meaningful development of sustainability policies ahead of status quo considerations. Instead, from the Governor, legislators, and county mayors, there is void that needs to be filled and without delay.  It is a need for general reform and focus on the preservation and complex restoration of one of the state’s irreplaceable assets, a healthy marine environment throughout Hawaii’s island chain.

For DNLR, such a statewide commitment would easily agency exceed the Agency’s half-measures and incomplete actions that generally translate in limited and isolated fishing moratoriums. Instead, what is required for 21st century environmental challenges of a global magnitude are global solutions, e.g., Paris Climate Accord, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Committee of Fisheries, International Whaling Commission, and the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) — the first of a series of four negotiating sessions through 2020 in the development of a new legally-binding treaty to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, commonly known as the high seas.

But local problems require also local action. In the case of the future of Hawaii’s reef system, fishing will eventually be limited or fish losses will solve any on going problems with extinctions.

If restoration measures are to succeed, DLNR will be need to move beyond saving isolated reef spaces, and instead, engage in a holistic conservation and recovery strategy that connects the dots between coral and reef fish. DLNR must also develop an independent and science-based strategy that addresses the multiple stressors of warming temperatures, rising sea levels, sea water acidification, marine food chain disruptions, and focus on addressing the needs of Hawaii’s diverse ecosystems and species.

Merely skirting tipping points to extinction, while invoking the magical word of ‘sustainability’, will no longer cut it.  So let’s imagine a new magic word: abundance or as the Hawaiians termed it “’aina monoma”…

 

Plastic Reef Bottle

Our Oceans are Drowning in Plastic

While Ocean drownings continue to be one of the leading causes of death in Hawai’i, the Pacific Ocean is also drowning… in plastic.

More than 11 billion items of plastic were found on a third of coral reefs surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region – and this figure is predicted to increase to more than 15 billion by just 2025.  Plastic contamination raises the risk of disease outbreaks on coral reefs by 20-fold, according to research..

“Plastic is one of the biggest threats to the ocean environment at the moment, I would say, apart from climate change,” said Dr Joleah Lamb of Cornell University in Ithaca, US.

“It’s sad how many pieces of plastic there are in the coral reefs …if we can start targeting those big polluters of plastic, hopefully we can start reducing the amount that is going on to these reefs.”

Plastic Beach TrashPlastic bags, bottles, plastic fishing gear and numerous other plastic containers are among the common items found floating in the ocean between Hawaii and West Coast and commonly associated with the so-called floating island or Great Garage Patch.

What is less obvious and not seen are microplastics particles, the tiny fragments left over when larger plastics break down. Most remarkably, the highest concentrations of microplastics were found between 650-1,000ft depth – four times more plastic than was found in samples at the surface. That’s on par, or higher, with quantities found at the surface of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Last month a study was done in Monterey Bay, a marine sanctuary and haven for sea life including whales, otters and sharks. “We did not expect to find this much pollution at these depths,” says Kyle Van Houtan, chief scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who co-authored the new paper. The implication: microplastics could be widespread – even concentrated – in the deep ocean around the world. “This is making us realize that the problem is far more extensive than we thought, and not constrained to the surface of the ocean.”

The Deep Blue

The prevalence of ocean pollution makes it more or less a certainty that every part of every island will be impacted by consumer plastics and marine debris to one degree or another. If what you can’t see can’t harm or help you, this may explain the public perception of the deep ocean as a far-off alien world is at odds with reality and ignores how much human society can affect it. “We rely on what happens on the deep sea every day,” says Choy. “It provides a lot of commerce, substance and protein, and it makes us think about how our day-to-day habits and activities impact the deep ocean.”

Anela Choy, is a biological oceanographer, and has been noticing something odd while studying the diets of tuna and other deep-diving fish. Though they lived at average depths of 1,000 feet, their stomachs routinely contained bottle caps, trash bags, and light sticks. “It was so strange,” says Choy, who works at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. “We were seeing recognizable pieces of human society.”

Microplastic pollution has been found on almost every part of the planet, but the scientists say this is the first rigorous study of microplastics distribution at varying ocean depths. Plastic was thought to stick to the surface; Choy wanted to examine everything from the surface to the ocean floor (known as the “water column”) and see how the concentration of plastic changed as animals traveled up and down.

Plastic Pollution

Scientists carried out their research using unmanned submarines, and sampled water at two locations and at depths ranging from five to 1,000 meters. They also sampled two marine species – pelagic red crabs and giant larvaceans (tadpole-like creatures) – both of which are filter-feeders that move from the surface to the deep on a daily migration.

Microplastics were present in all the specimens’ digestive tracts. Most of it was PET, the type found in single-use bottles and food containers. Researchers also concluded that plastic particles had been in the ocean for a long time, and that the majority came from land sources rather than fishing gear.

Small animals such as those sampled, as well as ocean water patterns, may be part of the reason that buoyant plastic is reaching such depths, explains Choy. “There can be physical mechanisms like vertical mixing, wind, waves and biological mechanisms like an animal eating plastic at the surface and pooping it out at depth.” Meanwhile, the buildup of bacteria or tiny creatures on the plastic itself changes its buoyancy and weighs it down.

As animals move up and down, they circulate materials around the ocean. “The greatest migrations in Earth are not birds to the tropics,” says Van Houtan. “The largest are the vertical migrations in the ocean, as creatures travel up and down the water column, to the deep and back. That’s why we should be concerned about these findings.”

A Precious Resource not limited to Hawai’i

As an island population, Hawaii is part of the more than 275 million people who rely on coral reefs for food, coastal protection, tourism income, and cultural importance.

Beyond plastic pollution, coral reefs face many threats, including ongoing coral bleaching caused by global warming of the oceans and changes to the water chemistry due to CO2 loading into world’s oceans.  As a result, coral polyps loose algae from their tissues, which drains them of their color, something witnessed in Hawaii’s local reef system.

Coral may recover when climate-driven fluctuations heat and then cool water temperatures, but so far  coral recovery for some of West Hawaii’s reef system since the last major bleaching event of 2015 has been sporadic or too selective to indicate a wide scale recovery – which would be reversed within short time period of time with further warming which has already documented this summer. The trend towards warmer and warmer water and air temperatures is not encouraging for coral recovery  in what is normally a process measured in decades.

The waters off West Hawaii are no exception and are not exempt from dangerous pollutants, but plastics pose a much greater threat to the marine food chain.  Hawaii state officials, boat captains and residents have all noticed an apparent uptick in marine plastics and debris ranging from derelict fishing and cargo nets to consumer plastics all in West Hawaii waters.

Long-time commercial fisherman, claim that plastics and other trash are more or less constant 20-40 miles offshore. Where he’s noticed the increase in debris is at 1,000 fathoms, where nets are the primary problem, and what local fishermen referred to as the Ono Lane, located roughly 40-50 fathoms out from the shoreline.

Carried by the currents, the problematic presence of excess debris both in the water and on the shoreline has plagued Hawaii Island’s entire leeward coast.

In the study, published in the journal Science, international researchers surveyed more than 150 reefs from four countries in the Asia-Pacific region between 2011 and 2014.Plastic Pollution Graph Plastic was found on one-third of the coral reefs surveyed. Reefs near Indonesia were loaded with most plastic, while Australian reefs showed the lowest concentration. Thailand and Myanmar were in the middle.

Scientists have found in their studies big rice sacks or draping plastic bags smothering coral and especially corals with a lot of complexity like branches and finger-like corals that are eight times more likely to be entangled in these types of plastics. It’s thought that plastic advances diseases that prey on the marine invertebrates that enable coral reefs to flourish. Branching or finger-like forms of corals are most likely to get entangled in plastic debris.  These are important habitats for fish and fisheries, the scientists say.

In the case of diseases, organisms attack coral, leading to likely death. Previous research has found that plastic debris can stress coral through blocking out light and oxygen, thereby giving pathogens a chance to take hold.

Based on projections of plastic waste going into the ocean, the researchers suggest that the number of plastic items snagged on Asia-Pacific corals may increase from 11.1 billion to 15.7 billion plastic items by 2025.

More than three-quarters of this plastic is thought to originate on land, and so, the ocean is full of fish, and more recently in course of human history… garbage.

 

What to do with all that Plastic, look to India…

Big Island Banner Pic

Hawaii’s Endangered Coral Reefs Add Value

Coral Reefs Provide Flood Protection Worth $1.8 Billion Annually — Key Reasons Hawai’i Must Protect This State Asset

For anyone who visits or lives in Hawai’i, and who dives or snorkels Hawaii’s various island reefs, it’s obvious the reef has been in trouble for some time.   This has been especially true since the supercharged El Nino climate event of 2015-16, which hit the islands hard and precipitated a major coral die-off.  By some estimates, there now is a 90% loss of coral — especially hard hit is Hawaii Island’s west shoreline.

The once robust and dominant reef cover of Hawaii’s brain coral is now mostly dead, but with some recently reported isolated signs of minor recovery.<

2019 – outer reef wall off of Kakapa Bay, Hawaii Island

A new UN report released this week, compiled by hundreds of scientists from 50 countries, concluded that the Earth is losing species faster than at any other time in human history.  And, thanks to climate change, coastal development and the impacts of activities such as logging, farming and fishing, roughly 1 million plants and animals are now facing extinction.  The UN report calls for rapid action at every level, from local-to-global, to conserve nature and use these finite resources sustainably.

The report’s good news is that many ecosystems now at risk can (should) be protected, preserved, and can become sustainable contributors to the local economies dependent on these natural assets.

The biggest obstacle to investing in natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and reefs, is that experts until now have not figured out how to value the protection that these habitats provide in economic terms. But a new report published by the USGS addresses that problem by focusing on Hawaii’s and the planet’s most bio diverse ecosystems: coral reefs.

This USGS report shows that coral reefs in U.S. waters, from Florida and the Caribbean to Hawaii and Guam, provide our country with more than $1.8 billion dollars in flood protection benefits every year. They reduce direct flood damages to public and private property worth more than $800 million annually, and help avert other costs to lives and livelihoods worth an additional $1 billion. Valuing reef assets and their benefits to society is the first step towards mobilizing resources to protect them.

USGS estimates the value of reefs in terms of flood protection, but the agency fails to consider the environmental values and the economies of scale which are derived from Hawaii’s marine assets — more specifically, Hawaii’s tourism, fishing, and near shore marine food supply. 
Califlower Death Widespread Shallow Reef To Open Ocean]

Breaking Waves and Blocking Floods

In 2017, tropical storms alone did over $265 billion in damage across the nation.

Reefs act like submerged breakwaters. They “break” the force of waves and drain away their energy offshore, before flooding coastal properties and communities.

Man-made defenses, such as sea walls, can damage adjoining habitats and harm species that rely on them. In contrast, healthy reefs enhance their surroundings by protecting shorelines and supporting fisheries and recreation, from diving to surfing.

The flood protection benefits that reefs provide across the U.S. are similar to those in more than 60 other nations. In a separate study, Nature Communications reports that the global cost of storm damage to the world’s coastlines would double without reefs.

Local Flood Protection Value

USGS employed a study model of more than 60 years of hourly wave data for all U.S. states and territories with reefs — a total area of over 1,900 miles — we developed flood risk maps projecting the extent and depth of flooding that would occur across many storms, both regular and catastrophic, with reefs present and then without them. They calculated these values in grid cells that measured just 100 square meters, or about 1,000 square feet — the footprint of a small house.

They also overlaid flood risk maps employing the latest information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to identify people and properties at risk — and benefiting from the presence of reefs — in each location.

It is well known that coral reefs are under heavy stress from climate change, which is warming oceans, causing coral bleaching. Pollution and over-fishing are also doing serious damage.

As the UN report on biodiversity loss notes, Earth has lost approximately half of its live coral reef cover since the 1870s. And that trend leaves 100-300 million people in coastal areas at increased risk due to loss of coastal habitat protection.

The USGS report was also able to identified economic benefits reef systems provide. For example, Florida receives more than $675 million in annual flood protection from reefs, and Puerto Rico gets $183 million in protection yearly.

In Honolulu alone, USGS found that the local reef provides more than $435 million in protection from a catastrophic 1-in-50-year storm.

Investing in Natural Defenses

First, applying Federal disaster recovery funding to proactively address natural coastal defenses.

Nationally, after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, only about 1% of recovery funding went toward rebuilding natural resilience, despite subsequent research showing that marshes in the Northeast can reduce flood damages by some 16% annually.

More than $100 billion has been appropriated to recover from hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma. It certainly would make economic sense for the Federal government to become proactive in addressing climate change impacts and by not only recognizing, but spending on rebuilding protective reef systems.

In a promising move, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has created opportunities to include ecosystem services such as flood protection and fishery production in official benefit to cost analysis calculations to support flood mitigation funding.

Second, the Insurance Industry is an important economic stakeholder in offering incentives and supporting investments in nature-based defenses for risk reduction.
Insurers have warned that climate change could make insurance coverage unaffordable for ordinary people after the world’s largest reinsurance firm blamed global warming for $24 billion of losses in California’s devastating 2018 wildfires.

“The insurance sector is concerned that continuing global increases in temperature could make it increasingly difficult to offer the affordable financial protection that people deserve, and that modern society requires to function properly,” …Nicolas Jeanmart, the head of macroeconomics at Insurance Europe, an association representing Europe’s major insurers.

Insurers are starting to consider coastal habitats in industry risk models and to create opportunities to insure nature. Thus reefs could be re-built if they are damaged in storms or even restored now based on their proven flood protection (i.e., premium saving) benefits.

Third, Federal Government agencies have incentives to invest in reefs as protection for critical infrastructure. Reefs defend military bases located along tropical coastlines, as well as shore-hugging roads that are the lifeblood of many economies from Hawaii to Florida and Puerto Rico.

The Army Corps of Engineers is making more use of natural solutions to minimize flood risks, a sometimes controversial undertaking here in Hawai’i.  The U.S. Department of Transportation is analyzing ways to protect coastal highways with nature-based solutions, such as marsh restoration.

Clearly, we have a locally-connected global challenge in Climate Change. Ignoring that challenge is a luxury we can no longer afford. Just talking about it without affirmative steps towards addressing the core problems of pollution, over-consumption, and the absence of stewardship when ti comes to managing and living in the natural world.

Like so many other climate change impacts now underway, it will take consensus building and a whole community effort — with participatory partnerships of government, private sector, and private citizens in order to make a much needed difference.

No Planet B Sign

Forces Inside and Outside Hawai’i Shape the State’s Climate Future

Hawaii’s 2019 legislative Accomplishments and Failures

We often measure value in terms of money or time or both. But there is an overriding third element too often overlooked: opportunity.

Opportunity came knocking at the door of Hawaii’s 2019 legislative session when in the senate SB 690 was born. To be exact, it was on January 18th.  Simply titled: “Relating to Climate Change”, SB 690 set forth the ambitious task of addressing the problem of climate change and the global warming impacts in which Hawaii, so far, is ill prepared.

Perhaps if our legislators took time off from their busy schedules to notice the headlines, they would have been more focused on the subject and committed to working on solutions – the time to act is now…

“Heatwaves sweeping oceans ‘like wildfires’, scientists reveal extreme temperatures that destroy kelp, sea grass and corals – with alarming impacts for humanity”

“Study shows how destabilized natural systems will worsen man-made climate problems — the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, further advancing sea level rise”

“Speeding Toward Irrevocable Climate Chaos – global carbon emissions must be cut by 50 percent per decade beginning now — repeat, now”… 

Nearly a month later, and a fair amount of legislative give and take and taxpayers money spent, SB 690, now slightly amended as SD 1, was referred to Hawaii’s Senate Ways and Means Committee (also referred as WAM or the meat grinder).  Something happened in the black hole of WAM law making processes, SB 690 was abandoned, and in its place a stepchild was offered up in the form of SB 393.  Without any legislative fanfare or justification, the overarching issue of our time was reduced to “Relating to Coastal Zone Management” — SB 393.

The differences between the original SB 690 and its replacement SB 393 were truly striking:

SB 690 contained a detailed 39 page legislative action plan and statewide funding for addressing climate change impacts in a rapidly closing window of opportunity; specifically Hawaii-centric issues ranging from sea level rise to needed environmental and economic transformation.

SB 690 also contained 42 separate citations on Climate Change, and 24 citations on Sea Level Rise.   Its 19 page incomplete replacement, SB 393, contained only 2 citations of Climate Change, and 4 citations on Sea Level Rise. It’s easy to understand which bill was more complete than the other in addressing the state’s climate challenges.

To be fair, there were some good legislative points in SB 393, however preparing for and reducing global warming impacts beyond improved coastal management and other limited half steps is the challenge before all of us.

In the end, even this modest attempt by the legislature failed to persuade most lawmakers – rest in peace, SB 393.

The effects of Climate Change and rising seas impacts on Hawaii’s famed beaches and resorts will also have to wait another year – perhaps for more delays and added costs for all of Hawaii’s stakeholders, certainly before any future and complete legislative solutions reach the Governor’s desk.

Baby steps by Hawaii’s law making bodies is a poor substitute for a running defense. This is no small task. The state must adopt policies and actions that will mitigate the economic, environmental, and social disruptions to Hawaii’s residents and the state’s economy, for both present and future generations. This is especially true when we are being chased by the Godzilla of all man-made impacts to our planet: global warming.

Rip 2019 Hawaii Legislature

Last month, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation and several other groups banded together to demand an “emergency-level response” to climate change from Hawaii’s legislators, instead they got 74 climate measures which died before the 2019 session. Good and bad bills alike, which sought to address many pressing issues ranging from sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions to single-use plastics, advancing solar power, and the adoption of electric vehicles.  There was no shortage of ideas, just what was needed, circumstances which demanded bold legislative Climate Change leadership, and got none.

Hawaii’s 2019 legislative session may be noteworthy not by its accomplishments, but the number of climate-related bills now dead and buried: SB 393, SB571HB855SB690HB1090SB1338SB700HB1370SB259 and SB1289

Hawaii shifts into reverse on EV’s

Hawaii state policy has never been friendly to the idea of electric vehicles replacing fossil fueled transportation. When other states offered new EV buyers tax incentives that help with the higher purchase price and facilitated their state’s transition to clean transportation, Hawaii offered no such incentives to its residents.  Hawaii certainly recognizes by state policy the necessity to migrate to zero emissions transportation, and equally important the role this transition plays in reducing Hawaii’s dependence on imported fossil fuels that are a primary source for more than 60% of the state’s greenhouse emissions and a major contributor to local air pollution.  Yet for Hawaii’s EV owners, the state has not so much as said mahalo for its citizens’ contributions to the state clean energy and climate goals.

Along comes SB 409 and the bill’s passage this month. It is a bill that singles out EV owners for newly created tax, a surcharge added onto the annual vehicle registration fees for all EV owners.

Hawaii’s nascent adoption of EV’s is just that — with EV’s presently representing less than 1% of all registered vehicles in the state. Now EV owners must negotiate a legislated speed bump, courtesy of Big Island’s very own Senator Lorraine Inouye — who was so happy with the passage of her bill SB 409, it’s rumored that she was seen dancing down the statehouse halls singing that old Beach Boys tune “…she’s real fine my 409”,  an ode to the past glory days of fossil-fueled cars — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frtVqCZub-0

Inouye’s justification for SB 409 and its EV surcharge tax is simple enough, like her reasoning “…electric vehicles damage the roads.”  As if Hawaii’s annual vehicle registration fees are not already high enough, when it comes to road damage perhaps the good senator should have considered taxing the sun, which does its own fair share of road damage.  But this legislature couldn’t determine how to tax the sun so they settled on the next best thing, EV’s powered by Hawaii rooftops and the sun.

The reality is fuel types do not determine the degree of “damage” to Hawaii’s roads, rather it is vehicle weight that drives road wear and tear.

Road Vs Vehicle Weight Chart

 

The passage of SB 409 represents no less than a significant statewide policy shift that runs over the Hawaii’s climate change mitigation efforts, and by extension, clean energy and sustainability goals.

Senator Ruderman (also Big Island) pointed out in an attempt to reason and offer a much-needed climate reality-check for Lorraine and other colleagues before the final vote … that the world has 10 to 12 years to address climate change before we pass the point of no return. Ruderman went on to remind his colleagues that the entire basis for SB 409 is flawed. That Hawaii’s roads are damaged by the heaviest vehicles, heavy trucks, and that SB 409 not only sends cross-signals as to the state’s commitment to address the challenges of climate change, but it makes no sense. We couldn’t agree more.

Just last fall, the Trump administration was forced to release a federally-mandated major climate report that is produced every four years by more than 300 independent and government scientists. Writing in the Fourth National Climate Assessment, report author Brenda Ekwurzel said the findings made it clear …”climate change is not some problem in the distant future.”

The report went on to state…“It’s happening right now in every part of the country. When people say the wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves they’re experiencing are unlike anything they’ve ever seen before, there’s a reason for that, and it’s called climate change.”

It’s no secret that the world is already seeing the effects of climate change. A NASA website section dedicated to the subject notes shrinking glaciers and shifting plant and animal ranges as evidence that it’s happening in real time with past predictions now coming to fruition through loss of sea ice, intensified heatwaves, and sea level rise around the world. 

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The window of opportunity to make a difference may have closed on Hawaii’s 2019 legislative, but not entirely for Hawaii’s citizens whose voices matter.

BeyondKona recommends our readers contact Governor Ige’s office (808) 586-0034 (this week). Show your support or veto request for the following climate-action bills …the few that survived Hawaii’s 2019 legislative gauntlet.

BeyondKona VETO Recommendation

SB 409 – Adds surcharge tax to annual registration fees targeting Electric Vehicles.

BeyondKona Recommendation to Governor Ige SIGN INTO LAW the following legislative measures —

HB401 — Requires all public agencies to identify and evaluate vehicle fleet energy efficiency programs. Amends the definition of “energy performance contract” to include EV charging infrastructure.

HB556 — Authorizes DBEDT to adopt minimum appliance efficiency standards for certain products.

HB560 — Requires UH community colleges to establish energy systems and technology training courses.

HB1585  — Establishes a rebate program for installation of eligible new or upgraded multi-user EV charging systems.

SB375 — Requires the Department of Ag and the Governor to develop a strategic plan to double local food production and increase food exports by 2030.

SB390 — Requires the Department of Ag to create a dollar-for-dollar matching program for beneficiaries of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to purchase Hawaii-grown produce.

SB661 — Grants procurement priority for fuel cell electric vehicles for state and county vehicle purchases. Includes fuel cell electric vehicles in the definition of “electric vehicles” for purposes of parking fee exemption, high occupancy vehicle lane use, registration, and required parking spaces in places of public accommodation.

SB1442 — Requires the Public Utilities Commission to consider the value of improving electric power systems data access and transparency in order to make informed decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Kona Banner Hawaii Dolphin

Hawaii’s Ocean Environment Heats Up — with Real Consequences

Hawaii’s remote location has historically protected the island chain from many major storm events and enabled an unique marine and land ecosystem to flourish.  As the impacts of Climate Change grow there is no escaping the planetary consequences, even when you’re living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Global Ocean Heating Graph

Heatwaves are sweeping oceans ‘like wildfires’, scientists reveal this week in long term effort to track the impact of global rising temperatures on the Earth’s oceans. The study found extreme temperatures are destroying kelp, seagrass and corals – with alarming impacts for Hawai’i, the planet, and humanity.

Global warming is gradually increasing the average temperature of the oceans, but the new research provides the first systematic global analysis of ocean heatwaves, when temperatures reach extremes for five days or more.

The research found heatwaves are becoming more frequent, prolonged and severe, with the number of heatwave days tripling in the last couple of years studied. In the longer term, the number of heatwave days jumped by more than 50% in the 30 years to 2016, compared with the period of 1925 to 1954.

As heatwaves have increased, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs have been lost. These foundation species are critical to life in the ocean. They provide shelter and food to many others, but have been hit on coasts from California to Australia to Spain.

“You have heatwave-induced wildfires that take out huge areas of forest, but this is happening underwater as well,” said Dan Smale at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, UK, who led the research published in Nature Climate Change. “You see the kelp and seagrasses dying in front of you. Within weeks or months they are just gone, along hundreds of miles of coastline.”

As well as quantifying the increase in heatwaves, the team analyzed 116 research papers on eight well-studied marine heatwaves, such as the record-breaking “Ningaloo Niño” that hit Australia in 2011 and the hot “blob” that persisted in the north-east Pacific from 2013 to 2016. They have adverse impacts on a wide range of organisms, from plankton to invertebrates, to fish, mammals and seabirds.

The scientists compared the areas where heatwaves have increased most with those areas harboring rich biodiversity or species already near their temperature limit and those where additional stresses, such as pollution or overfishing, already occur, including the western Pacific. Ocean systems are being battered by these multiple stresses, and local studies indicate that Hawaii’s marine reef system has not escaped the same stresses which are at work around the globe.

Ocean Heating Graph2

The natural ocean cycle of El Niño is a key factor in pushing up temperatures in some parts of the ocean, as Hawaii’s marine ecosystems experienced massive bleaching in 2015-16, amplified by global warming (an effect of carbon loading from fossil fueled emissions, and in turn, heating of ocean temperatures rapidly over the past 50 years).

The study further concludes the gradual overall heating of the oceans from El Niño driven heatwaves are now worse when they strike.  As ocean starting temperature rise, so does the absolute temperatures [in a heatwave] that is much higher and more stressful to marine life. Some marine wildlife is mobile and could in theory swim to cooler waters, but ocean heatwaves often strike large areas more rapidly than fish move.

“This [research] makes clear that heatwaves are hitting the ocean all over the world … The ocean, in effect, is spiking a fever,” said Prof Malin Pinsky, at Rutgers University, US. “These events are likely to become more extreme and more common in the future unless we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

When the global fishing wars hit Hawai’i

The damage from over-fishing and global warming has created a one-two punch and knockout to global fishing stocks. In a series of other scientific papers published last week, the conclusion was stark – ocean warming has significantly contributed to a reduction in sustainable fish catches by 15% to 35%.

Science magazine’s March 1, 2019 publication states …”Fisheries provide food and support livelihoods across the world. They are also under extreme pressure, with many stocks over-fished and poorly managed. Climate change adds to the burden fish stocks bear, but such impacts remain to be fully quantified.

“We were stunned to find that fisheries around the world have already responded to ocean warming,” according to work published by Pinsky and his colleagues.

Another study showed that achieving the 2C climate change target set out in the Paris agreement would protect almost 10m tons of fish catches each year, worth tens of billions of dollars.

Rising Ocean Temps And Fish Graph

They found that an overall reduction in fishery yields has occurred over the past 80 years. Although some species are predicted to respond positively to warming waters, the majority will experience a negative impact on growth. As our world warms, responsible and active management of fisheries harvests will become even more important.

Over-fishing reduces reproduction rates in fish populations and warming damage the habitat. When the water around them warms, the added strain makes these already weakened populations more susceptible to collapse, according to the study, which goes on to state, “Over fishing makes populations of fish more vulnerable to climate change, and climate change is hindering our abilities to rebuild over-fished fish populations.”

Other research found that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would result in an annual catch of fish that is 9.5 million metric tons higher than in the 3.5 degrees scenario. That represents a difference of more than $23 billion in annual revenue for fishers and seafood workers.

“That is huge,” said Rashid Sumaila, the study’s lead author and director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.

Roughly 90 percent of the catch that would be protected by limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would occur within the territorial waters of developing countries, many of which are in tropical regions that are highly dependent on fish and have contributed little to greenhouse gas emissions, Sumaila said.

A second study, published in the journal Science Advances, considered the extent to which global fisheries would benefit if global warming is limited to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as compared to a “business-as-usual” pathway based on current greenhouse gas mitigation policies that would bring 3.5 degrees of warming.

Conclusion

In the space of one week, several credible scientific publications have underscored that unless we (which includes Hawai’i) take evasive action, our future oceans will (do) have fewer fish, fewer whales and frequent and dramatic shifts in the marine ecosystem – all together, these human-caused changes will have significant environmental and economic implications for humans who depend on the ocean, which not only includes Hawai’i, but most of humanity.

 

Big Island Banner Pic

2018, A Big Island Year To Remember

The 2014 movie “Interstellar” was based on the theory of traveling through a blackhole, bending time, and experiencing intense gravity with strange outcomes.  Living in Hawai’i recently seems like our island spaceship cannot escape the intense gravity of world events, yet we are continually reminded of the paradox that Hawai’i is uniquely isolated, but globally connected.

Kīlauea’s summer vacation

This year began like any other, until the Kīlauea’s east rift zone erupted on May 3, 2018.  This latest eruption is believed to have been connected to the larger volcanic eruption that began on January 3, 1983, and blessed the Kona side of the island with smoggy (voggy) skies and poor visibility for the next 35 years.  The May 2018 eruption (considered to be the most destructive since the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980) took its toll on island residents, especially those residents previously living in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.

On the positive side, waking up one summer morning and suddenly discovering something missing was an understatement.  Without any fanfare from Kilauea, the volcano just decided that enough was a enough and it was time for things Sunset 1to quiet down for while – an unexpected gift and well received by the Island’s local residents.  Since 1984, it took a swift in the trade winds, or perhaps a heavy rainfall the night before to temporarily clear the sky of volcanic haze (vog aka volcanic smog).

But by early August this past year the eruption had almost completely subsided, and the lull in volcanic activity continues to keep the air mostly clean and clear for island sunsets that are unbelievably beautiful. For now at least, skies are crystal blue, and stunning ocean views are unobstructed to the horizon, and night skies now rival any planetarium show that even impresses lifelong residents.

At the peak 2018 eruption, it was estimated that 50,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and other poisonous gases were filling local island skies and beyond. Gas mask sales soared across Hawaii Island.  But since dropped to an average of 1,000 tons of SO2 gases a day, 1/50 the volume at peak eruption earlier this year.

The current “pause” in volcanic activity state has yielded only very minor signs of vog production wafting across Kona skies, with nothing much getting in the way of breathing deep and enjoying a wonderful and joyful sunset – for as long as it lasts…

The sun energizes most of life on Earth, and Hawai’i is no exception

(updated Jan. 17th, 2019)

Hawaii’s tropical location provides abundant sunshine, producing energy, abundant agriculture, deep suntans, sunsets and a night sky (away from city lights) that will take your breath away.

All this sunshine depends on a nearby star, our Sun, which serves as the ultimate (fusion) nuclear reactor, creating high temperatures through the  fusion of hydrogen at its core, and in turn, warming the Earth to livable temperatures from millions of miles away.   Most of Earth’s life depends on the sun, and we human are no different. In the history of human civilization, energy (in one form or another) has been basic to human survival, and sun plays a most important role in Earth’s energy matrix.

As modern civilization evolves, so has our modern day adoption and use of energy resources such as fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, or renewable energy.  In the 21st century, our planet economies are becoming increasingly electrified, along with a corresponding increase appetite for energy.  The emission by-products of these energy-dependent processes are now impacting Earth’s climate, ecosystems, and most life on Earth.

The last 150 (fossil-fueled) years has produced accumulative CO2 emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere and is now placing  life on Earth in 21st century into a death spiral for what scientists are calling the “6th great extinction event”.  Driven by many human factors, human-caused global temperature rise is creating disastrous impacts on ecosystems and the species dependent on them – Hawaii is no exception, with one the most notable impacts, coral bleaching and the death of near shore marine ecosystems.

There was a time in Earth’s history comparable to today’s climate crisis (minus humans) — that was 252 million years ago, when up to 96% of all marine species and more than two-thirds of terrestrial species perished. The mass extinction, known as the “great dying” marked the end of the Permian geologic period. The study of sediments and fossilized creatures show the event was the single greatest calamity ever to befall life on Earth, eclipsing even the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Scientists now believe the Earth has entered its 6th mass extinction event, a ‘biological annihilation’ of populations of animals that have been lost in recent decades. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/10/earths-sixth-mass-extinction-event-already-underway-scientists-warn

Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events like asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, and natural climate shifts, the current climate crisis is almost entirely caused by us — humans. In fact, 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming. Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.

As for Hawaii’s energy sector, the nexus of energy and climate change-extinction is obvious to an increasing number of policy makers.  The state has begun to transition to locally produced and (for the most part) clean and emissions-free renewable energy, while capitalizing on Hawaii’s abundant solar energy options. Solar  power, within Hawaii represents he highest per capita growth rates in the United States.

Putting environmental, social, and climate change impacts aside from burning fossil fuels, Hawaii’s imported dirty energy represents the most costly for the importation of petroleum and coal — a cost factor that is three to four times higher than the mainland fuel prices. Imported energy costs further mount with factoring in environmental, climate, and public health cost factors that are absorbed by the public from burning those fossil fuels.  In effect, Hawaii has both strong environmental and economic motivations to become a world class leader in energy self-sufficiency through solar and wind and energy storage as primary replacements of imported and costly, polluting fossil-fuels. Solar Pv Sun Image

In 2015, Hawaii was the first state in the United States to reach grid parity for photovoltaics.  Previously, solar energy represented just 0.07% of Hawaii’s total electricity generation back in 2007. But by 2015, solar energy fulfilled 6% of Hawaii’s total electricity needs, and thermal solar (hot water systems) further reduced Hawaii’s energy demands.

Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (HRS 269 -92) mandates 100 percent renewable energy in the electricity sector by  2045, and solar will continue to play key role fulfilling this goal.  In 2017, Hawaii’s energy mix for renewables stood at 27.6 percent, more than 12 percent ahead of the interim statutory 2015 target of 15 percent, with plenty of room for future growth of both rooftop residential and business installations, combined with utility-scale solar and solar-storage installations, all together, ending Hawaii’s dirty imported energy dependency.

New Arrivals to the Big Island discover a 21st century paradise, but not without challenges

Between 2012 and 2016, the Big Island lost an estimated 2,362 people annually to the other three counties in Hawaii, while adding just 1,654, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Not in this past census data was the recent impacts of the 2018 Kilauea eruption and exodus of some long time residents who had enough health issues and uncertainties to overcome the joys of paradise.

For recent Mainland (move-in) arrivals to the Big Island, many quickly discover that island life has its challenges and rewards. 

Is there a doctor in the house? Leaving “living the good life” descriptions to the state’s well-funded tourism brochures, daily Big Island life too often means living with a chronic shortage of doctors and essential medical services. The only real full service medical system on Hawai’i Island is Kaiser, and even the big K is feeling the pain of a chronic shortage of qualified medical practitioners, and as outer island populations grow, their legacy of a strategy for lowering operating costs by flying their members in need to Oahu for many medical services and labs, based on a big Island with small population is failing to meet demand. Doctor Shortages

Forget our local hospitals, you may be better off taking a life-flight to Oahu or the mainland. The discovery of the absence of medical choices leaves newcomers to the island dumbfounded for what they took for granted – medical options that were easily and conveniently available on the mainland, are now a day trip or longer away and come at a higher cost.

Then there is Big Island living at the end of the state’s supply-chain, which too often requires being your own personal Costco in order to ensure that what you want is available when you need it.

All in all, it takes only one beautiful sunset, ocean swim, monarch butterfly, and fresh year-round produce to soon forget, at least for a moment, the challenges of island life.

Onward and i luna, next stop Mars?

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation is an analog habitat for human spaceflight to Mars.   For the first time ever, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project, which tests how humans would endure the isolation of a Mars mission, will include participants from four different countries of origin.  HI-SEAS is located in an isolated position on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii.  Mauna Loa offers Mars-like features, and an elevation of approximately of 8,200 feet above sea level for the habitat to further the unearthly Earth bound experience.

Mars Habitat On MkThe first crewed Mars Mission plans sending astronauts to Mars, orbiting Mars, and a return to Earth, and it is scheduled for the 2030s.  One year after Elon Musk announced his big vision plan that expects to transport a million people to Mars via Space X, he expects Mars colonization to be in less than 25 years.

Sustainability is foremost in the minds of dreamers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and adventurers who plan to settle on Mars.  Basics like oxygen, water, a radiation shield, and no food are just some of the things we take for granted here on Earth, but absent on Mars. At recent scientific conference hosted by Mars colonization enthusiasts and advocates, the key speaker painted bleak picture for the future of human survival on Earth, but simple stating …‘extinction is the new norm,’ …which begs the question, really?

So some uber-rich billionaires are betting their riches on building their own lifeboats to escape Earth, as they see it as a sinking ship and look to a journey to Mars as humankind heads for extinction on planet Earth.

Human extinction is not a scientific or social foregone conclusion.   But a prescription for extinction of life on Earth starts with unsustainable living, and the wasting and pollution of Earth’s life-sustaining assets: clean water, breathable air, and upsetting the balance of the atmosphere by loading massive amounts of  human-generated CO2 emissions, methane, and other greenhouse gases that all together are rapidly raises planetary temperatures.

When global changes occur in the Earth’s temperatures, natural, self-regulating systems, change as in climate change. Add in the wasteful absentee management of over-harvesting the Earth’s life-sustaining food chain, and humans soon find themselves on a path on of no return.

 

A message for Hawai’i and all of humanity this holiday season 

This past week a New York Times op ed written by former Secretary of State, John Kerry offered a clear message to Hawai’i, America, and the world” “Forget Trump. We All Must Act on Climate Change”. 

During last week’s third anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, the Trump administration marked it by working with Russia and Gulf oil nations to sideline science and undermine the accord at climate talks underway in Katowice, Poland.  At the same time, I’ve been reading Bob Woodward’s fascinating and somewhat sympathetic book of insights on inside the Trump White House, titled ‘FEAR’.   During a Boston appearance last week Woodward also revealed to his audience a remarkable admission: The presidenthe said, “makes decisions often without a factual basis.”  This isn’t a mere personality quirk of the leader of the free world. It is profoundly dangerous for the entire planet. Gw Santa 2018

Kerry who was instrumental in spearheading the Paris Accord on behalf of America, went on to write … Scientists tell us we must act now to avoid the ravages of climate change. The collision of facts and alternative facts has hurt America’s efforts to confront this existential crisis. Ever since Mr. Trump announced that he would pull America out of the Paris accord, those of us in the fight have worked to demonstrate that the American people are still in.

But the test is not whether the nation’s cities and states can make up for Mr. Trump’s rejection of reality. They can. The test is whether the nations of the world will pull out of the mutual suicide pact that we’ve all passively joined through an inadequate response to this crisis.

 

Talk to leaders who are gathered in Poland. They acknowledge that we aren’t close to getting the job done in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet. People are dying today because of climate change, and many more will die and trillions of dollars of damage to property will occur unless America gets back in the fight’. 

Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma cost the United States some $265 billion in damages. Historic droughts are matched by historic floods. Heat waves stole 153 billion hours of labor globally last year. Infectious diseases are moving into new areas and higher altitudes. Crop yields are down in more than two dozen countries, and by 2050 the Midwestern United States could see agricultural productivity drop to its lowest level in decades — and this is a mere preview of what’s to come.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the changes required to hold global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius), as called for in the Paris agreement, would require changes on a scale with “no documented historic precedent.’ Fossil fuel emissions are forecast to go up by 2.7 percent worldwide this year.  Instead of reining them in, the Trump administration would unleash more —

  • First, it replaced the previous Clean Power Plan with an EPA rule that now allows power plants to unload 12 times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; a throwback and lifeline to make coal great again.
  • Second, instead of controlling vehicle fuel emissions, the Trump administration is rolling back fuel economy standards that the auto industry had previously embraced and that would have saved hundreds of millions dollars for consumers in fuel costs.
  • Third, instead of keeping a lid on methane, EPA rule changes now in the works will make it more likely that this highly potent greenhouse gas will be freely discharged by oil and gas extractors and refineries into the atmosphere, further accelerating global warming.

It is as if the Trump administration’s energy and environmental policies are based on 1950’s science and norms of that time, free from the reality of social, economic, and environmental consequences of pollution and policies bent on destroying planetary norms in which all life, including Republicans and Democrats alike, are equally dependent.

What About Hawai’i – climate change means Hawaii faces real time threats from rising temperatures, rising oceans, and super storms

Scientists tell us we must act now to avoid the ravages of global warming, and Hawai’i is far from being exempt from the consequences of a warming planet.

Climate change will eventually affect nearly every aspect of life in Hawaii.   Rising air and ocean temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and changing ocean chemistry are already affecting people and individual ecosystems across Hawaii’s chain of islands.

Because Hawai’i and the Pacific Islands are almost entirely dependent upon imported food, fuel, and material, the vulnerability of ports and airports to extreme events, sea level rise, and increasing wave heights is an a increasing concern and projected likelihood for which Hawaii is not prepared.

Future generations will measure us by whether we acted on facts, not just debated or denied them. The verdict will hang on whether we put in place policies that will drive the development and deployment of clean technologies, re-energize our economies, and tackle global climate change.

‘If we fail, future generations will judge us all as failures, not just this president.’ John F. Kerry