Earlier this year in March, Haleiwa residents experienced extreme flooding, destroying their homes and driving some from the area. Scientists have reported that extreme weather events such as this are becoming more and more common, and most attribute this increase to climate change.
“Hawaii’s climate is changing in ways that are consistent with the influence of global warming,” Dr. Chip Fletcher said in the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy’s climate change briefing sheet for Hawaii. He noted a number of observable effects in Hawaii: “air temperature has risen, rainfall and streamflow have decreased, rain intensity has increased, sea level and sea surface temperatures have increased, and the ocean is acidifying.” This has been long coming, and multiple past incidents have foreshadowed this increase in erratic weather. In Kauai in 2018, a US record was set after it rained nearly 50 inches in only 24 hours. Then a year later on Oahu, a storm with wind gusts of 191 mph and waves 60 feet tall downed power lines and trees, disrupting the island’s ordinarily peaceful atmosphere. “Because these trends are likely to continue, scientists anticipate growing impacts to Hawaii’s water resources and forests, coastal communities, and marine ecology,” Fletcher said.
To help prevent the furthering of climate change, society will have to take drastic steps, but every movement starts with individuals who are willing to make small changes to their lifestyle. One of the best ways to help out the climate is to lower your carbon footprint, or in other words use less carbon-based fossil fuels. This can be especially difficult when living on an island, where most of our goods are imported on ships and planes — which emit large amounts of carbon. Trying to purchase 100% locally is a bold but ultimately unrealistic goal, especially considering that it’s cheaper and more convenient for us not to. However, you can still consider your consumption of local and imported goods, and balance them in a way that greatly benefits the environment. You can support local businesses just by telling others about them and posting on social media. One significant shipped good is produce, and a small step you can take is to buy from local farms. Other ways to lower your carbon footprint are to eat less meat (especially beef), use non-gas or public forms of transportation, and conserve electricity. Doing any of these things, even if only sometimes, helps fight climate change.
It is important to acknowledge that change takes time, and Hawaii may still experience extreme weather before the world takes action. Our progress may not show immediately, and it’s a slow path to recovery that takes continuous effort. Until then, disaster preparedness kits, food storage, and an emergency plan for your household will be necessary. Hawai’i along with the rest of the world is suffering, and we must alter our lifestyles to be more eco-friendly and begin mitigating the damage we have already done.