Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Musings: Planet in Peril

As an island state, Hawaii needs to take heed of the newest paper published by Dr. James Hansen, the NASA scientist who first warned Congress of global climate change back in 1988.

Twenty-eight years later, his warnings are more dire than ever, based upon better computer modeling, an improved understanding of climate and observations in nature. “Effects seem to be showing one or two decades earlier in the real world than in our model,” he said.

As Honolulu developers pour millions into building up the low-lying Kakaako neighborhood, and Kauai County pushes for the reconstruction of Coco Palms and expensive road projects within the Kapaa flood zone, Hansen is warning of increasingly dangerous superstorms and the prospect of “a sea level rise of several meters [causing] the loss of all coastal cities” within the next 50 years.

The paper identifies a specific mechanism that the scientists say they believe could help cause such an abrupt climate shift.

Their idea is that the initial melting of the great ice sheets will put a cap of relatively fresh water on the ocean surfaces near Antarctica and Greenland. That, they think, will slow or even shut down the system of ocean currents that redistributes heat around the planet and allows some of it to escape into space. Warmth will then accumulate in the deeper parts of the ocean, the scientists think, speeding the melting of parts of the ice sheets that sit below sea level.

The climate change ramifications for Hawaii are potentially huge, considering how much infrastructure — ports, refineries, power plants, highways, resorts, cities, homes, airports — are built on the coast. Then there's the impact on tourism — the state's main economic driver — and agriculture.

I recently interviewed Dr. Chip Fletcher, a UH-Manoa geology professor and associate dean who has done extensive research on climate change in Hawaii. Frankly, the situation as he outlined it is rather bleak.

“Hawaii is experiencing already, and will continue to experience, several forms of climate change,” he said. These include a warmer atmosphere, with the subsequent possibility of dangerous heat waves, such as those that have killed people 140,000 around the world since 2000. “Now we're seeing changes in wind patterns, increased temperatures and record-setting daily temperatures” in the Islands, he said, and "2015 saw an almost total collapse of the trade winds."

“We have seen a decline in rainfall over the past century, and over the past 30 years, an acceleration of the rate of decline,” he said. Models predict less rain in the winter season, and an expanded dry season. And rainfall is likely to be more intense, which increases the possibility of urban flooding and soil erosion, which results in more sedimentation of reefs and estuaries.

Hawaii is also seeing a decline in stream flow fed by ground water, which is “probably related to the decline in precipitation at higher elevations,” he said. This has serious implications for agriculture and ecosystems, which are more susceptible to invasive species when stressed.

Then there's storminess. “As we move into a warmer future, we're going to see more El Ninos taking place, and they'll be stronger," he said. "With stronger El Ninos, we are increasingly vulnerable to tropical cyclones and hurricanes.”

"These climate change factors of increased precipitation, increased tropical cyclones, sea level rise, warming atmosphere – they really sort of thread their way through every aspect of our lives, from food production to urban living to transportation," Fletcher continued. "The problem is very detailed and very deep."

"There's a lot to do, it's going to be expensive and we need to prepare ourselves. This does paint an extremely grim picture, and unfortunately, people don't get it," he continued.

"If we fail to successfully achieve the Paris accord and keep our global temperatures below 2 degrees C, we're looking at a failure of the planet. This is a very grim situation and for some reason the message just has not translated out of the scientific research world into the world of politics and economics and human society."

And now Hansen is saying even a 2-degree increase may be too much.

Meanwhile, data from NASA show that February 2016 was the warmest month since global temperature-keeping began — beating a record set in January 2016. 

The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory also jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research.

NASA reports Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, as saying:

Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years. It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”

So now what?

“I doubt we have passed the point of no return, but frankly, we are not certain of that,” Hansen says in a video.

I have hope," Fletcher said. "I have to have hope. I've got a family and I love Hawaii and I love our society. But I despair at the same time that we are moving into a future that's so potentially dark. The world's changing. Let's try and do what we can to make that change as  painless and rapid as possible. It's going to be a different world. Wherever we can, let's make it a better world."


Anonymous said...

There is always a bogeyman in the closet.
We will contend with the change as change occurs. When Kuhio Highway floods on a regular basis, we will build a Mauka Road. Such is life.
We will adapt and we will live on.
Climate change has been forever. From the Asians crossing the Bering Sea, Europe's middle age ice fields, North Africa's drought etc. We have had mini-ice ages and hot spells.
The change we can do something about is to elect people who will be able to adapt and pursue policies that help the populace.
Like building more roads, allowing land owners to build houses for their kids and lowering taxes.
Kauai's change has been against the regular folks. A political class supported by government unions and the rich new-comers. A strange brew. Both want no development and no roads. Neither care or plan for the younger generation, who will be stuck in traffic, living in $3000 rentals with Tutu, Grand Tutu and others who can contribute to the rent.
But I guess it is OK. I gots my house and pension, so keep those same old roads, we don't need no jobs, I want Kauai as my own little paradise, after all I have lived here over 4 years and I am a local, I am entitled to tell the ag guys what to spray, tell Ron Kouchi to release his emails, fight any housing for the locals and sell my Rambutan at Farmers market, so I get my tax reduction.
Keep Kauai, Kauai. Stop jobs, roads, housing. But leave Costco alone.
Oh yeah, I believe in climate change and man's part, but leave my Air conditioners, my 2 SUVs alone. I am a progressive, I vote JoAnn and Hooser and Mason. They are the bestest.

Anonymous said...

8:06- You sounded almost ok until the last line!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of planning for the younger generation, where will the money to adopt to rising sea level come from? And what industry will employ the younger generation? Ain't gonna be tourism because we won't have beaches.

Anonymous said...

"Twenty-eight years later, his warnings are more dire than ever, based upon better computer modeling, an improved understanding of climate and observations in nature. “Effects seem to be showing one or two decades earlier in the real world than in our model,” he said."

Even Hanson's first warning was too late since global warming was noticed by scientist in the 1970s!

Anonymous said...

@10:53 am

global warming was first noticed by the Neanderthal's about 40,000 years ago. Global warming started when the earth was created being that it revolves around a sun.

Anonymous said...

Man didn't cause global warming; politicians created it.

Anonymous said...


Promoters of the hypothesis of human-induced global warming and their alarmist compatriots often refer to skeptics as global warming deniers. It’s an odd label for skeptics, because most of the prominent skeptics do not deny that the Earth has warmed or that climate changes. In fact we illustrate those facts in almost every blog post and article we prepare. Most skeptics understand:
1) humans changed Earth’s environment
2)man-made greenhouse gases contribute to the warming of the atmosphere, and
3) humans have contributed to climate change in many other ways.
However, most prominent skeptics are:
1) NOT convinced that mankind is responsible for most of the global warming we’ve experienced,
2) NOT convinced future global warming will lead to additional climate catastrophes, and:
3) Definitely NOT convinced that the climate science community can attribute to mankind any of the global warming and changes in climate we’ve experienced...because their models cannot simulate the basic natural processes that can cause global warming or stop it cold. From Bob Tisdale's (free) book: On Global Warming and the Illusion of Control.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Joan on this posting a hundred percent.Now only Neanderthals deny global warming. Excellent job Joan. Man has accelerated the natural cycle of global warming. A one celled amoeba can grasp that concept. The rest are just floating in a sea of their own noxious hot gases. Aloha.

Anonymous said...

Yeah politicians stopped the tradwewinds and rain. The laws of physics are upon us all the live long day, the laws of physics are upon us no matter what the deniers say. Can't you feel the humid weather early in the morn, can't you see the streams a dying denier blow your horn.

Anonymous said...

Pandora opened the jar and all the evils flew out, leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again.

Anonymous said...

No worries about the beaches & tourism. The beaches will just move mauka and the State will continue to own up to the highest wash of the waves. Party on!

John Kauai said...

Given that every fish you eat is full of plastic and therefore you are to:

My comment there also applies here:

"A long, long, long time ago I was taking the "Iowa Test of Basic Skills". I still clearly recall the Newspaper headline in the test that was part of the reading comprehension test. (Must have been Third Grade.) "World Population nears 3 Billion".

If this story about plastic concerns you, you might want to contribute to Planned Parenthood."

As far as the comments about one's family and the jobs that won't be there, that is true. Most $15/hour jobs are going to be done by robots in the next couple of decades. There are already restaurant chains that have no clerks. You use an iPad to place your order and then you swipe your credit card. You can't use cash.

Surely many of you have read those Sci-Fi stories about the huge domes built to house humanity -- except most of humanity wasn't let inside.

Yes, climate change has been around since "forever", and often when it changed many species went extinct. Many others just barely survived.

This world cannot sustain a human population of 7 Billion people.

Anonymous said...

You know what's in peril? The county leadership. In order to deal with these challenges like climate change, viability of ag and enforcing land use laws they need to hire and keep, attract and retain the best and brightest. Don't be surprised with dipshit department heads if you pay them dipshit salaries. Expect a circus if your paying them peanuts. Meanwhile currently the council is the second highest paid in the state. They only give them selves raises and no one else. All the department heads are the lowest paid in state. I watched it on the internet today and was appalled at Mason Chock for changing his vote. Lack of leadership Kauai.

Anonymous said...

All planets in the solar system are warming. Planet Earth is warming from the center. The increase in number and intensity volcanoes and earthquakes is off charts. It will only get more catastrophic as our Suns binary twin, a back star or brown dwarf has now entered the inter solar system. This our governments greatest secret because they only plan for the elite to be allowed into the underground ark cites. Check the facts yourself, look for Planet X or Nibiru on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

The leaders are paid well. Add in the terrific bennies and the extreme power and no can get fired, it is a dream job.
The fault is in the Council and Mayor. No plans for the future. Whilst the Mayor proclaims that 6 or so Bus Stops is a terrific achievement, a main achievement for the island, one chokes on one's coffee. We have a budget with fed, state and county money of over 200 million.
The Rotary Club could build 6 bus stops in 3 afternoons. A joke.
The Council must got to big land and work with them in bringing some zoning so we can build homes.
We need homes, roads and fewer county workers,
No vision, no plan, no nothing..................come on Mel, you have the power to do ANYTHING to the budget, are in control. Lets see some action...otherwise your run for Mayor will resemble your terms as Councilman, a big, fat limp Di^ substance, no strength,a flaccid forgettable little thing, no steel, just big talk and little do.

Anonymous said...

Pure madness. Do you really believe the tiny island of Kauai can make any difference with climate anything? Look at India, China, Mexico,Brazil and Russia first. Does critical thinking no longer exist?

Anonymous said...

As a mainlander who frequents Kauai and keeps current on Kauai affairs, one thing I've noticed is that Kauai disproportionately attracts nuts of all flavors. Those who are pro-GMO and side with Joan on the pesticide debate, will then drop science and make nonsense statements when it comes to global warming. Those who are anti-GMO and on the opposite side of Joan on pesticides, will then take up the mantle of science and proclaim that those who deny global warming are anti-science and are morons, which they indisputably are if they deny man-induced global warming. Kauai is an interesting place. Joan strikes me as someone who does not have an agenda but simply goes where the science and data leads.

Anonymous said...

Councilmembers are not only the second highest paid in the state, but they also get another $6,000 a year for phone and mileage. They got their raises when the Mayor froze his staff's salaries. With this car and phone allowance, they are making nearly 3/4 the pay of department heads but only have half-time jobs. Ross Kagawa actually has a fulltime position as a teacher, so clearly he cannot be working more than half-time as a councilmember. Listening to Kipukai publicly state that he works as hard as the Mayor and wants $100,000 too was ridiculous. Yesterday's decision on the executive salaries was another penny-wise, pound-foolish decision. Why even have a Salary Commission when it's clear that Council feels they are the experts in this area? Maybe the real solution is that we need to pay our councilmembers more so that we can actually attract new members that have a IQ over 80. Morons and buffoons, that's what we have as leadership at Council. One thing is for sure, it's time for Kauai's citizens to lower their expectations (even further) on the level of government services. Taxpayers will certainly get what they pay for.

Anonymous said...

Every county, city, country no matter how small will have to deal with climate change and yes every body makes a difference. every car, every law, every house, etc... Especially on a small island. We have unique issues and need excellent leaders to serve the people. Not to serve the council members. To serve the people! I think the council members have forgotten that and they're not fulfilling thier purpose of representing the people. They're only representing thier own interests and political agendas. "Lack of leadership Kauai" Mason is right. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

Kauai and the rest of Hawaii is dependent on an industry that has a huge carbon footprint. If humanity somehow reverses course and gets serious about climate change, then Kauai will be in for some hard economic times. If the world continues to spew carbon emissions at anywhere near current levels, Kauai will be screwed environmentally. Party on, indeed.

Anonymous said...

When has the county of Kauai standards been adequate?

What kind of services have they provided that you so proudly speak of? Except for EBT and quest applications that bankrupt the state and raises the taxes for everyone else.

We the people of Kauai have suffered from unqualified/under qualified family members on council and in the admin for 40 or more years.

One of the so called Dept head wants a 15K raise from their 100K salary is ridiculous. 15% raise? And in the private sector they get a 1% raise then the county and state wants to raise vehicle tax, gas tax, registration, and GE tax. That 1% raise is already spent on county and state idiots.

Anonymous said...

Melvin is too scared because people have shot on him and has other matters that he needs to tend to. So he's keeping a low profile because he knows what could go down.

Anonymous said...

TGI reporting on the Hilario murder conviction being overturned is 4 days late.

Anonymous said...

Typical of some commentators to careen off a pali to a different subject. The discussion is climate change not council salaries so put down the Trump signs and stop goose stepping for just one nano-second and try to keep up.

John Kauai said...

Here are a couple of articles from "The Nation" on Climate Change. The first is written by James Hansen warning of the dangers of Methane that has increased dramatically because of fracking. The second discusses the author's struggle with whether or not to have children and provides a perspective on the nature of the Population Bomb that has been ignored for the last 50 years as our world is on track for over 9 Billion people by 2050.

Climate Change is man made and the overpopulation of the planet is at fault.

7:03 apparently thinks that because China and other nations produce more warming gases than Kauai that Kauai should do nothing? The change is happening. The county needs to consider how to move Kapaa as it becomes flooded. If you think traffic is bad now...

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry

How Do You Decide to Have a Baby When Climate Change Is Remaking Life on Earth?

Joan Conrow said...

the overpopulation of the planet is at fault.

That's way too simplistic. It's primarily consumption patterns, driven by the wealthiest nations.

John Kauai said...

Sure Joan,

There are several factors, but in the end which one do you want to concentrate on? Are you saying we should all "just get along" and not be so selfish? OK.

Are you saying industry should be more efficient so it doesn't generate as much greenhouse gas? OK.

Are you saying that everyone should become a vegetarian so the energy required to raise (for example) beef won't be expended? OK

Are you saying the wealthy nations should share with the rest of the world? OK.

These are only holding actions.

If there weren't so many people then we could consume what we want and burn what we want and maybe everyone could live on their own island. One's quality of life depends on the number of people living in one's "space".

At some point, if population control is not practiced, it won't matter what other actions are taken to solve these problems. At some point, over population will start to solve itself with wars and starvation. Yes, it is as simple as that.

Couldn't one's insistence on his "right" to have as many children as desired be considered "greed in a different form"?

Anonymous said...

gotta love the pro lifer goons who want to turn their backs on the rest of the children of the world and domestically borne children as well by not funding schools housing or medical needs. pro life policies have nothing TO do with life and everything to do with death poverty homelessness and the deterioration of humanity. as long as they can hold a gun drink a beer eat fast food die for the country pray on their knees know their place and obey the white master race laws these so called saved children will live otherwise these pro-lifers have nothing to do with living and everything to do with hate and ready to cull from the earth those they see as others these religious beliefs drive the increase in worldwide suffering just as much as war does. i ask all of you if life is so precious to you how can you turn away a child fleeing from horrific atrocities? Seriously start OWNING UP TO THE FACT THAT MANKINDs RELIGIOUS IDEOLOGIES ARE DESTROYING THIS PLANET.

Joan Conrow said...

John -- It seems you're so eager to get your point of view out there that you try to conduct both sides of the conversation.

What I'm saying is, overpopulation is often code for 'too many people in the developing world.' The reality is that people in the West, especially Americans, consume far more than their share of the world's resources, especially energy. Yes, population control is required. We're in agreement there. But in the meantime, we're on a trajectory for more than 11 billion. So your bit about "If there weren't so many people then we could consume what we want and burn what we want and maybe everyone could live on their own island" is totally irrelevant. Given population realities, we who have so much need to look at reducing our consumption, or face the unpleasant fact that we're relegating billions to a marginal existence.

John Kauai said...

overpopulation is often code for 'too many people in the developing world.'

I agree. Your initial comment wasn't clear to me.

John Robert Martino said...

The key to solving weather issues is teleKInetic, meaning theurgy and thaumaturgy.

All Is Mind. Peace.