On June 18th, 2014 a coalition of grassroots organizations, industry leaders and over 50 concerned citizens came together at the Hawaii State Capitol to discuss the impact of climate change on the State’s economy.
The event – ‘ActOnClimate: A discussion on how climate change impacts will affect Hawaii’s triple bottom line’ – featured top political & tourism professionals, environmentalists, and University scientists discussing the results of a recent study conducted by SeaGrant, the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Tourism Authority on the effects of climate change on Hawaii’s largest industry, and recent legislative actions on a local, state and federal level.
The study looked at current and potential impacts of climate change on Hawaii’s tourism industry and coastal communities. It identified opportunities for adaptation and sustainable growth for the tourism industry, and informed Hawaii’s decision makers in the public and private sector on the potential creeping effects of this worldwide phenomenon.
The event was put together by I.D.E.A.S. (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions) and co-sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation – Oahu Chapter, Aqua Blue Foundation and Livable Communities Hawaii.
Speakers included Rep. Chris Lee who represents Kailua and Waimanalo in the State House of Representatives. Lee chairs the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, and led the effort to pass Hawaii’s Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, which was signed into law by Governor Abercrombie last week. He remarked on a report done by the Hawaii Tourism Authority on the effects climate change will have on the industry. He stated that tourism is a $14 billion industry in Hawaii, and that calculations have determined there are $10 billion dollars worth of reefs that are being effected, and pointed to the Waikiki beach replenishment project as an example. Waikiki Beach is estimated in the study to be worth about $2 Billion dollars to the economy. If it was not fixed, it would mean the lose of $150 million in tax revenues, and 6000 jobs in the direct area if it was not fixed.
He also reviewed and lauded recent local, state and federal efforts (including the most recent EPA ruling) to combat this issue saying he was “excited about Obama’s game changing EPA rules, and commitment to the cause”.
Following Lee was Dr. Chip Fletcher, a geology professor and administrator at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Fletcher conducts research on climate change impacts to coastal communities and teaches courses in Earth Science. He spoke on the physical manifestation of climate change and Hawaii is beginning to see effects locally. His presentation focused on local temperature changes and impacts on reefs and beaches, all of which the tourism industry depends on. Dr. Fletcher stated “Potential impacts to Hawaii include growing heat waves, drought and wildfires, impacts to freshwater availability, ocean acidification and warming, and sea level rise driving coastal erosion and flooding.” said Dr. Chip Fletcher.
Moderator Samantha Ruiz of I.D.E.A.S echoed Rep. Lee and Dr. Fletcher’s comments in stating that the most recent EPA ruling – a 30% reduction of Co2 emissions from all power plants by 2030 – is our next “sputnik moment”. As innovation stemmed from this ruling can help to reinvest the state’s triple bottom line, with an emphasis on identifying and developing enhanced strategies to protect Hawaii’s natural resources.
Following the meeting, Ben Rafter of the Aqua Blue Foundation remarked, “There is a tremendous opportunity for the tourism industry to consider our state’s vulnerability to natural hazards that is exacerbated by climate change. HTA hopes to adopt a more comprehensive and holistic approach to these potential impacts.”
The event also showcased the film, ‘Do the Math’- a short documentary produced by 350.org focused on the economic landscape of climate change. A solutions based discussion followed the screening, hosted by I.D.E.A.S. founder Ruiz, as to how community members can begin to divest from the fossil fuel industry, and take more direct action on climate change.
For more information on this event contact: Samantha Ruiz, Samantha@ideasforus.org