Monday, November 23, 2009

Musings: Heat is On

The sky was smudged burnt orange when Koko and I went out walking this morning, the third in our new/old neighborhood. It felt so good to see the peaceful pasture, feel the slosh of wet grass beneath my feet, smell the slightly medicinal scent of camphor, the muskiness of hinano hanging from the hala trees.

All the weariness and tedium of moving slipped away when I woke in the night to the sound of hard rain, sat on my porch and watched birds flitting among the heliconia and lauae fern, stood outside in utter blackness, save for the light offered by stars. We are back where we belong.

“It’s the start of a new era,” said my neighbor Andy in greeting when we met while walking yesterday. I’d seen him at Saturday’s conference on global warming, and was curious about his take on things.

He’d left the event a little early because he was freezing cold, an irony not lost on many in attendance who shivered their way through the four-hour program in KCC’s theater, where the AC for some reason couldn’t be lowered.

Andy and I agreed that the first two speakers — Dr.Tom Giambelluca, a UH geography professor and rainfall expert, and Dr. Gordon Tribble, a USGS stream flow expert — had us wondering about the severity of the issue, since their predictions were couched in such qualifying language as “may” and “could.”

Still, they did present evidence that the Islands are warming, especially at higher elevations, which spells trouble for the endangered forest birds and plants that are barely hanging on there, and also at night, which similarly disrupts ecosystems and biological processes.

We’re also seeing a significant decrease in winter rainfall, as well as in our base stream flow, which has serious implications for water availability and agriculture. They know these things are happening, but aren't sure yet just why, or how it will all play out in terms of future weather patterns.

But the tone shifted dramatically when Dr. Chip Fletcher, a UH professor and expert on sea level rise, gave his talk. He said that he was a denier and skeptic in the 1990s, because the evidence wasn't compelling. But since then, he’s come on board, along with the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists.

It’s clear, he said, that the CO2 level is at its highest in 15 million years, the rate of loss in the ice mass is accelerating and the sea level is already rising to the point where it’s “changing lives” in some low-lying islands in Micronesia. Heck, salt water is already oozing into the streets of Waikiki at high tide.

Chip is expecting the sea level to rise about 1 meter by the end of the century, and said a major problem in Hawaii will be drainage. As the sea level rises, flooding will be triggered by less rainfall, especially in coastal communities that are backed by wetlands, like Hanalei, Kapaa and Wailua.

Chip ran a cool little clip that shows how that 1 meter sea level rise will impact Kauai’s coast, and it’s pretty sobering. Meanwhile, some parts of the island, like Haena, are experiencing severe coatal erosion. Looks like Mother Nature will eventually take out Joe Brescia’s house atop the burials, but ya gotta wonder why the county and state are still letting people build so damn close to the water there.

But then, why did they allow all those folks to rebuild at Poipu, where Iniki’s storm surge wiped the coastline clean? Shoots, the debris line extended all the way into the Kukuiula project now being built.

At any rate, Chip said “we should retreat from the coastline,” an assertion that seemed to contradict his later endorsement of a coastal path, including the stretch proposed for Wailua Beach.

I called him yesterday for another story I’m working on, and asked him about the Path, too. Chip said he agreed to advise the county on the Path only if they promised “to remove it the moment it begins to erode or interferes with beach processes and agreed it would never be defended with a seawall or other device at the cost of the beach itself.”

The county assured him that would be the case, and wanted to proceed with the project, even though Chip told them that a coastal path is not likely — even in the best scenario — to last more than a few decades.

So that’s where we’re at now, moving forward with a multi-million project that will ultimately be doomed, along with the expensive road widening there at Wailua. As one person from the audience asked: “Is anyone listening to what you’re saying?”

Andy left before Dr. Paul Jokiel delivered his sad account of how the increasing levels of CO2 are causing acidification of the oceans, with the result that we’ll see more of the major bleaching incidents that are already occurring in Hawaii. “We’re going into something geologically very new of having our reefs dissolve as we go through this century.” And that, of course, has dramatic implications for ocean ecosystems, fishing, recreation and protection from storms.

Paul said he didn’t like to deliver a doom and gloom talk without offering folks some hope. He then laid out a number of things we could do to reverse the CO2 levels, including eating less meat (or simply eating more healthfully), adopting alternative energies, painting roofs white and other relatively easy steps.

While some of the alternative energy measures are expensive, they pale in comparison to the money we're spending on war and already spent bailing out our financial institutions and jump-starting our economy, which he pegged at about $8.9 trillion.

“We’re just going to have to get it together and do the equivalent of building the interstate or sending a man to the moon,” Paul said. “I see it as a great opportunity to bring our civilization to a level that’s sustainable.”

And that’s when it struck me that what’s really at issue here are values. We can continue on with business as usual (BAU), which is expected to result in a global temperature increase of 6 degrees C. Or we can literally chill by ditching the greed and excess and shifting toward a more equitable, sustainable society.

No wonder so many on the right find global climate change so threatening. Addressing it goes hand in hand with the kind of social change they're bitterly resisting.

“So what do you think it will take for people to make that shift?” I asked Andy as we walked.

“Something really big and serious, like Manhattan flooding, that can be definitively linked to global warming,” he said.

Until then, looks like BAU can be expected.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

“So what do you think it will take for people to make that shift?”

Learning where and how to operate the AC on-off switch would be a good start.

Casey said...

Nice summary of the challenge of climate change.

The movie of sea level change shows that basically all coastal farm land would be lost. I hadn't appreciated that before...

Anonymous said...

Sea level rise...

That should take care of the coastal burial isues. They are all ready eroding out of the dunes in Haena and Kapa'a.

Unless, they move them to higher ground.

Anonymous said...

"but ya gotta wonder why the county and state are still letting people build so damn close to the water there"

Pretty sure its called private property rights and until either a federal land use law is passed and or FEMA stops paying individuals to rebuild their multi-million dollar homes - your bau will continue.

Kauai has, at this time, one of the most progressive, science based setback ordinances in the U.S. - so those homes are not as close as they may be other places even within this state.

Dawson said...

"Looks like Mother Nature will eventually take out Joe Brescia’s house atop the burials, but ya gotta wonder why the county and state are still letting people build so damn close to the water there."

They do it because it's in their own best interests as tax collectors, power brokers and money mongers. Our leaders are loyal to the culture of Grab All You Can Today. They won't be around when the fossil fuels are gone and the ice caps have melted.

Anonymous said...

No, you are incorrect Dawson, please familiarize youself with the law.

Perhaps re-read the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

Dawson said...

"Kauai has, at this time, one of the most progressive, science based setback ordinances in the U.S."

Kauai's setback ordinances can only be called "progressive" in a culture that routinely sells its resources -- physical or aesthetic; of the past, present or future -- to the highest bidder, for the benefit of the current elite.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see Dawson, you don't believe in the Constitution of the United States nor capitalism.

So cute, you live in a fantasy, and try to play in the real world - keep trying - its amusing to read your struggle with reality.

Anonymous said...

"Chip told them that a coastal path is not likely — even in the best scenario — to last more than a few decades."

-- im pretty sure this guy had said that sections of it might only last X number of years. i dont believe he was speaking of the entire item. big difference of course


"Kauai's setback ordinances can only be called "progressive" in a culture that routinely sells its resources -- physical or aesthetic; of the past, present or future -- to the highest bidder, for the benefit of the current elite."

-- just fyi, in its current form the setback is actually pretty progressive


dwps

Joan Conrow said...

im pretty sure this guy had said that sections of it might only last X number of years. i dont believe he was speaking of the entire item. big difference of course

He was speaking about those sections that run along the coast.

Anonymous said...

However, Dr. Fletcher was asked, during the moderated portion of the conference, about the Wailua coastal path location specifically.

Anonymous said...

Evidence in Dr. Fletcher's Blue Line movie indicated that those areas of elevation > 3 ft msl will not be affected by the coastal inundation.

Therefore, some of the coastal path will be just find - i.e. Donkeys Beach to Kapa'a town (it does appear that Kapa'a town will be in the inundation zone within the next 100 years).

Dawson said...

"Oh, I see Dawson, you don't believe in the Constitution of the United States nor capitalism."

Wrong. I believe in them both.

But unlike you defenders of Business As Usual, I don't use them as justification for robbing the future to feed the greed of the present.

Anonymous said...

While Kauai has one of the most progressive, science based setback ordinances in the U.S. - none of the houses in the Wainiha Subdivision area used the progressive erosion based setback, the few developed or being planned since the ordinance became law have used the default minimum depth based rate, which is far less than the erosion rate setback would be.

Anonymous said...

Funny how Kauai has such a progressive setback ordinance on the one hand and on the other the county wants exemption from shoreline certification process.

Anonymous said...

Why, would a thing or activity that is allowed in the setback area, such as a life guard stand, need a certified shoreline survey?

What difference does it make if it is a movable, temporary structure, like a picnic table?

Anonymous said...

If your shoreline property is 120 feet average depth and the setback, based on your erosion rate is -1.1 per year, the setback would be 117 feet, unless you pay for an EA and receive a variance from the Planning Commission, while agreeing not to rebuild.

Anonymous said...

Why, would a thing or activity that is allowed in the setback area, such as a life guard stand, need a certified shoreline survey?
Duh, so they don't get washed away in the waves... So the lifeguard stand is not swept out to sea to bang on the reef.

Anonymous said...

November 24, 2009 5:32 AM

What is your definition of the setback area? My understanding is the setback area is outside of the high wash of waves and on a slid sled to move in storm events so that it doesn't get washed out.

Tell me how does a certified shoreline effect the location of the tower when the purpose is to save lives in the ocean, therefore a coastally dependent structure?

Anonymous said...

“So what do you think it will take for people to make that shift?” I asked Andy as we walked.

People like you to change the law, petition a bill, do something to make a difference on whatever scale you as an individual can do and/or others can do.

Anonymous said...

Tell me how does a certified shoreline effect the location of the tower when the purpose is to save lives in the ocean, therefore a coastally dependent structure?

--good point. Anyone got an answer?

Anonymous said...

Tell me how does a certified shoreline effect the location of the tower when the purpose is to save lives in the ocean, therefore a coastally dependent structure?

--good point. Anyone got an answer?

November 24, 2009 8:56 AM

-Too bad no answer here - I was really looking forward to the coastal advocates explaining this one to us. especially the Duh dude
from November 24, 2009 5:32 AM who I'm guessing did not read the ordinance or just doesn't know what the setback area is...

Anonymous said...

Tell me how does a certified shoreline effect the location of the tower when the purpose is to save lives in the ocean, therefore a coastally dependent structure?
Duh Dude again here, if the structure is sited seaward of the shoreline, when the high seasonal surf comes, it gets washed out overnight, and is banging on the reef, and that doesn't work. On the NS,The warning signs the lifeguards put up all over our beaches, were washed away over night, with the lifeguards only able to find one, the rest all are now on the reef, and in the ocean.

Anonymous said...

If they are sited seaward of the shoreline, then it is outside the County's jurisdiction and the ordinance does not apply; however, they are situated landward of the shoreline, in the setback area, which is outside the high wash of waves.

So, try again, DUH DUDE.

Anonymous said...

If they are sited seaward of the shoreline, then it is outside the County's jurisdiction and the ordinance does not apply; however, they are situated landward of the shoreline, in the setback area, which is outside the high wash of waves.

So, try again, DUH DUDE.
I'll try again... no certified shoreline, how do you know whether you are landward or seaward of the shoreline. who's jurisdiction, it is determined by the certified shoreline. Duh dude