Ocean Heating Graph2

A Long Hot Summer is Over – Or Is It?

As the days wore on and spring became summer, Hawaii’s air temperatures stayed high, breaking daily records in the 90’s, island-by island, and across the state. Mid-October temperatures continue to set record highs, and the shorter solar days of fall have thus far mostly failed to fully delivery fall’s cooler temperatures — is this the new climate norm?

Hawaii’s higher temperatures are beginning to match what is happening in other climate regions around the world today. Global higher temperatures, a by-product of rising global CO2 emissions, also delivered a devastating blow to Hawaii with a 2015 super-charged coral bleaching event that wiped out nearly 90% of West Hawaii’s coral (comprised primarily of the Pocilloporidae family) and created doubts as to if 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 Hawaii Island’s reef system.

This spring, Hawaii’s waters resumed their seasonal heating.  This fall, preliminary observations of last year’s reported coral recovery were being replaced by an acknowledgement that “there are further signs of bleaching and coral death”, with the statements of a coral recovery now silent. Young Coral Die Off North Kona

How are our local reefs fairing in these new higher temperature norms?

What has and is being observed in our local ocean are random and limited areas of new coral growth, once healthy, now being observed as baby coral turning an unnatural bright pink, and other young corals freshly bleach white – a total absence of color.

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.

These are signs of a dead and dying coral reef — signs of the changes to a local marine environment that is worth more than all Hawaii Island’s west side hotels.

Overall, Earth’s oceans are becoming hotter, more acidic, and less oxygenated.

All these trends will continue through the end of the century, the IPCC (UN) reported.  For more than the past 150 years, and since the industrial revolution, concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have increased in sync with a growing global energy dependency on burning of fossil fuels.  Translated, we humans created a climate heating problem for local and global fisheries and marine ecosystems, and we are ignoring the opportunities to course-correct at our own peril.

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.

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.) Changes in ocean chemistry is affecting the behavior of non-calcifying organisms. 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.

Shell-forming creatures from oysters to types of plankton are increasingly at risk from the changes, which have been called the “evil twin” – acidification combined with  higher temperatures from 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 are generating more intense storms with more costly storm surge impacts.  These rapidly developing cause and effect impacts no longer afford us all the luxury to deny, ignore, or forestall meaningful and needed corrective actions.

Hawaii we will find itself staring down a Cat 5 Hurricane in the not too distant future, and we are presently ill prepared for the consequences. But far worse is the need for urgent action to address the source-problem, significantly reducing and then eliminating global fossil fuel emissions (here, there, and everywhere).

A 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC and its 193 member nations) concluded 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 also 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.

CORAL BLEACHING TRENDS IMPACTING HAWAII’S MAIN ISLANDS

Noaa 2018 19 Coral Bleaching Graph

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.

Far worse than these state-wide signs of warming impacts, would be to ignore, deny, or just talk story empty political platitudes.   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”.

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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

 

 

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…

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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.

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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.

 

Earth Wind Fire And Water

Hawai’i – Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water

Volcano Update: Monday, Aug. 6th, 2018

Since this July 29th issue of Hawai’i Today was published, and beginning this past Saturday (Aug. 4th), field observations and drone overflights indicated “reduced output” from Fissure 8. By late Saturday afternoon, the lava river, which had once been a vigorous liquid flow moving over 30 mph, had become a very slow moving flow chunky hardened cooler lava.

The latest report, issued by Hawaii County Civil Defense (Sunday evening) stated the there was no lava moving in the lava river channel. At the heart of the eruption, the cone at Fissure 8, there is still some lava spattering, but the lava fountains of 200 feet high and more have stopped.

At the summit of Kilauea, the rhythm of the last couple months of 5.2 magnitude earthquakes every 36 hours has also stopped. There has not been a magnitude 5 or greater earthquake in over 3 and a half days, and the magnitude 2 earthquakes, which were numbering in the hundreds per hour, now happen at a rate of a few per hour.

What’s next is anyone’s guess.

BeyondKona’s July 29th issue of Hawai’i Today: 

KILAUEA – the volcano that keeps on giving

Reuters reported last week: “Hawaii eruption could last years, destroy new areas”. The Reuters report went on to state: The current eruption could become the longest in the volcano’s recorded history”It’s noteworthy, these dire predictions are just that, predictions, and volcanic science is imprecise, even in the tech-weighted 21st century.

Here’s what we know. A higher volume of molten rock is now flowing underground from Kilauea’s summit lava reservoir than in previous eruptions, with supply to a single giant crack — fissure 8 — and is showing no signs of waning, according to the study published last week.   The lava is now bursting from the same area (about 25 miles down Kilauea’s eastern side) as it did in major eruptions of 1840, 1955 and 1960. The longest of those eruptions was in 1955. It lasted 88 days, separated by pauses in activity.

If the ongoing eruption maintains its current high rate, Kilauea-based geologists believe it may take months to a year or two to wind down.

Geologists also believe previous eruptions may have stopped as underground lava pressure dropped due to multiple fissures opening up in this Lower East Rift Zone. The current eruption has coalesced around a single fissure (8), allowing lava pressure to remain high.

Hawai’i (Big) Island consists of an area representing nearly 63% of the entire state’s land mass, and is growing daily thanks to the current eruption activity.  With 4,000 plus square miles of land and multiple micro climates, Hawai’i Island is nature at its fullest, and the current eruption is producing consequences far beyond the island’s districts of Ka’u and Puna.  For example, here are some of the early eruption indicators and impacts on Hawai’i Island:

1- The number of voggy and overcast days now outnumbers clear air, sunny days in West Hawai’i

2- Respiratory health problems related to vog-smog (SO2) exposure have spiked with local residents

3- Nurseries, landscapers, and agricultural operations have reported increased yellowing and other signs of plant stress. Some good news as well, many Kona coffee growers are pleased with the unusual number and duration of overcast days (less the SO2), which is apparently good for growing coffee

4- The same (vog-related) overcast conditions pleasing some Kona coffee growers, has presented other problems for some of Hawai’i Island’s solar energy community who are experiencing a decrease in historic energy production

Overall, our Hawai’i Island community appears to be adapting to the current economic, environmental, and community changes, while gearing up for a possible long term increase in Kilauea’s volcanic activity. If the aloha spirit and community, mean anything, it is that they are more than just words when practiced by our island residents …and now is the time. 

HAWAI’I ELECTIONS:  GOVERNOR and LT GOVERNOR RACES

It’s election time again in Hawai’i, and primary election cycles in Hawai’i generally decide the outcome of many races, including our next governor.

Hawai’i is currently at a crossroad, and BeyondKona has researched the backgrounds, qualifications, achievements, and energy policy agenda of the candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor, and who may well decide the state’s energy future: one towards sustainability or greater dependency on imported fossil fuels.

So why is energy so important?  Next to life’s fundamental need for food, water, housing; energy is the foundation and building block of our modern world.  Living in Hawai’i is expensive, as is the case for imported energy and its supply chain dependency from one of the most remote and populated locations on Earth.

Hawaii’s cost of living is the highest of any of the 50 states.  Hawaii, which along with Alaska belongs to the “Pacific Noncontiguous” region of the US, has by far the highest monthly utility bills.   For Hawai’i Island residents and businesses, energy represents half or more of the cost of water for DWS customers, and our island electric utility HELCO rates are the highest in the nation, and among the costliest of HECO’s four island utility service range.

The choice of governor in this current election year will likely determine the direction and outcome of Hawaii’s 2045 100% renewable energy objective, and the cost of energy in the future.  ”Although Hawaii’s energy policy is spelled out generally by statute, Hawaii’s governor plays a significant role in implementing the policy”, stated Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

For many voters, Governor Ige gets a gold star for both clean energy leadership, and another for protecting Hawaii’s unique and precious multi-island environment.

  • Ige’s leadership style is a refreshing contrast to many of today’s political leaders whose self-serving agenda is more media engagement than substance or achievement.  Ige has demonstrated quietly and thoughtfully honest leadership as Hawaii’s chief executive — addressing Hawaii’s growing homeless problems, supporting Hawai’i Island in its most recent major eruption and the corresponding disruption of communities and businesses.
  • The Governor’s highest visibility action to date was opposing the highly unpopular NextEra takeover of HECO. For any other governor it would have been an easy sell-out to NextEra and political gain that would have provided NextEra the support it badly needed, but Ige instead repeatedly placed the state’s interest ahead of any potential personal and political gain by standing up against the NextEra’s fossil-fueled political juggernaut by representing Hawaii’s interests first. No2 Nextera
  • This election year’s Sierra Club endorsement of Ige stated…” Hawaii’s common-sense commitment to clean energy owes a lot to Gov. David Ige, who championed this vision at the Legislature and made it a core part of his leadership agenda”. Ige’s leadership has produced more than twice as many people now working in Hawaii’s clean energy sector — these are well paying local jobs.

However, the elephant in the room that many politicians fail to acknowledge is the growing societal, environmental and economic costs of burning fossil fuels linked to global warming. An absence of leadership on this macro issue by Colleen Hanabusa could not be more obvious.

Hawai’i is now squarely in the cross hairs of climate change.  The impact and costs of climate change on island states like Hawai’i, continues to accelerate, with rising sea levels, super storms, and changing wind and weather patterns. Hawaii’s future is increasingly dependent on the energy choices we make today, and moving Hawai’i forward to self-sufficiency in energy and food are key to the state’s future and viability; no governor understands this better and has demonstrated leadership towards tackling climate change than Gov. David Ige.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa… Hanabusa’s links to the fossil fuel industry go back to her family’s gas station.   She has previously served as a director of Hawaii Gas, and is a strong advocate of LNG (natural gas) for Hawaii’s future.

  • Hanabusa pushed hard for the NextEra takeover of HECO and its island operating utilities, and supported NextEra plans to slow Hawaii’s advancement of solar, wind, and other local clean energy options, substituting the importation of natural gas as a so-called “bridge” and dirty fuel replacement for Hawaii’s current dependency on other fossil fuels.
  • Also, in this current election cycle, a dark money PAC (fossil fuel funded) launched several TV attack ads against Ige that some considered crossed a line when it comes to Hawaii’s historic rules of political engagement.

⊗  – BeyondKona recommends the re-election of Governor David Ige

Hawaii Island continues to struggle in its development of adequate health resources and services for our island population – no one understands this issue better and is better qualified to address this problem than Dr. Josh Green.

Green is a practicing local Hawai’i Island doctor who has spent much of his life caring for Hawaii’s families.  As a State Senator, Green currently serves as the chair of the Committee on Human Services, and has been a leader on advancing Hawaii’s health care opportunities.  He is also a member of the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and represents Hawai‘i’s 3rd Senatorial District.  Green has served in the Hawai‘i State Senate since 2008, and understands the issues facing Hawai’i today, especially the importance of the state’s transition to a clean energy economy.

⊗  – BeyondKona recommends the election of Dr. Josh Green to the position of Lt. Governor

BeyondKona has researched the candidates, their qualifications, voting records, legislative achievements in full consideration of its candidate recommendations.

We kindly urge our kama’aina friends to vote by mail or at the ballot box in this year’s important primary election, August 11, 2018.  Mahalo a nui loa.

IT’S HOT AND GETTING HOTTER

This 2018 summer marks a global spike in the continuing trend of global temperature rise.  Weather stations around the world are logging record-high temperatures on the edge of the Sahara and above the Arctic Circle.

From the Arctic to Antarctic and places in between we are witnessing and experiencing the heat this summer, with massive fires in the mainland’s western states, super storms in the east, and rising global heat-related deaths that defy the current US Administration’s policy on climate and energy – one that appears deaf, dumb, and blind to the scientific facts, costs, and societal consequences of global warming.

The Arctic Circle this month is experiencing an unprecedented heat wave that has sent temperatures in the far north of Sweden as high as 86 F, and in parts of northern Siberia it reached 90 F degrees, 40 F degrees above normal. After years of increasingly hot, dry summers, the great forests in the far north, and around the globe are starting to burn releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and melting permafrost that is releasing huge quantities of methane – what scientists call a feed-back loop that is further accelerating global warming impacts. Japan was walloped by record triple-digit temperatures, killing at least 86 people in what its meteorological agency bluntly called a “disaster.”

So far, Hawai’i has escaped some of these climate change impacts, but that is now changing.  Sea-level rise, coral beaching and die-off, and changing weather and trade wind patterns that are now being experienced throughout the Hawaiian island chain.  It seems, no matter how remote Hawai’i may seem from the rest of the world, global warming is truly global.  For an in depth perspective on current and frightening climate change developments, visit the BeyondKona Climate section: https://www.beyondkona.com/climate/

Wh Real Estate Sale Chart

Will Vog-Shrouded West Hawai’i Real Estate Valuations be next on Kilauea’s Hit List?

As Q2 2018 closed in a volcanic haze that shrouded West Hawaii’s famous sunsets, so did sales data showing some worrisome indicators for the south Kohala and Kona area real estate market.  A developing sales trend may impact both potential buying and sellers, and Hawai’i County officials who are struggling to balance growing budget needs.

The direct and indirect economic and social impacts from the recent volcanic uptick are only just beginning to be fully understood. However, the impacts are real enough for lower Puna families who have suffered greatly, but have come together as a community in the best aspects of Hawaii’s unique aloha spirit.  At last count 700 homes have been destroyed and nearly $380 million in taxable real estate turned into fields of lava.

All this begs the question: Will vog-shrouded West Hawai’i real estate valuations be next on the Kilauea hit list?Vog Map

Perhaps the possibility of shrinking property valuations in the lucrative property tax-areas of south Kohala and the greater Kona will give Hawai’i County officials more to ponder?  These areas regularly covered by voggy views and the after-effects of laze and voggy haze, producing stinging eyes, coughing, and choking from the air both visitors and residents equally breathe.

The recent upsurge in Kilauea’s eruption activity has produced a consistent number of vog-shrouded days for south Kohala and Kona that have become the norm, rather than the exception.  West Hawaii’s tourist trade has already felt the impact of vog-covered skies, with area residents and businesses struggling to adjust to this new environmental reality.  While the local Costco now stocks gas masks, Guy Hagi (Hawaii News Now’s high profile weather guy) extols the virtues of “no worries”, proclaiming clear skies and helpful trade winds from his distant Oahu perch.

West Hawai’i real estate sales data at the close of the second quarter looked mostly normal, however, on closer examination there was a noticeable drop in sales closings at the end of June that does not bode well for an uncertain future governed by a restless volcano or the near term prospects for clear skies and the return of West Hawaii’s famous sunsets.

Second quarter 2018 data for home and condo sales consisted mostly of offers written in February and prior to the recent increase in Kilauea eruption activities and air-polluted views. While it’s too early tell, this recent trend indicates a potential link between the island’s recent uptick in volcanic activity and a late Q2 decline in area sales numbers.

The two year Kona area real estate sales chart (shown below) illustrates this developing economic trend in detail, with the chart’s blue line representing the “sales pending ratio”, which is the number of escrows per 100 listings for the Kona residential market.  Note, how the number of sales in escrow for late June 2018 that appear to have fallen off a cliff — a trend not normally associated with historic and seasonal sales data for the same period from recent years.  The last time a lower ratio sales for this period occurred was June 2011.

If this trend continues, experts predict “a prolonged decrease in units sold, lower sales values and prices will follow.”  And, when home and condo values drop, County property tax revenues follow.

The real estate market, like the stock market, goes up and down and each has its own market cycles, but only Hawai’i Island has a volcano and a fire goddess named Pele, who since 1983 never sleeps.

Wh Real Estate Sale Chart