ULI Hawaii News

Event Recap – Climate Change in Hawaii

On July 11, 2014, our monthly brown bag series featured Dolan Eversole, Regional Coordinator of NOAA UH Sea Grant Coastal Storms Program. Dolan presented the latest research on how climate change is expected to affect the built environment on Oahu and what mitigation and adaptation techniques are being discussed.

Dolan said Hawai`i is stepping up efforts at planning for adaptation with recent legislation that assigns the State Office of Planning to implement an adaptation policy. You can see the text of the legislation here>>>

Some of the key points from the talk:

Rising sea levels, along with high water levels caused by storms, will increase coastal DrainagePipeflooding and erosion. Infrastructure systems will need to be rethought in many places to mitigate this problem. Some obvious problems are related to electrical and communication utilities getting wet due to the ground water table rising with sea level.  In many places in Honolulu the ground water table is currently only a few feet below the surface.  Also, storm water systems that depend on gravity will work less effectively if at all, especially at high tides. We already see this happening as shown in the photo on the  right of salt water coming out of a street drain during high tide.

Loss of beaches will need much more focus as they are a key component of tourism and local lifestyles. NOAA has created a viewer that allows you to see what will happen to Oahu’s southwest coast under different scenarios of sea level rise. You can see it here>>>.

Drinking water from Oahu’s elevated aquifers is not expected to be inundated with sea level rise, but Oahu’s low land aquifers will most likely become brackish. A general decrease in rainfall will, however, affect water supplies and greater conservation of all fresh water will have to take place.


Cities around the country and the world are looking at creative strategies for protecting Portland-Presentation-Draft-Slides_final_FINAL 50shorelines, buildings, infrastructure, and the economies and communities that go with them. Below are resources that illustrate some of the new ideas.

Rebuild by Design was a program initiated after Hurricane Sandy to challenge designers to come up with ideas for adapting to climate change. You can see the resulting winning designs here>>>.

Sea Change: Boston is a regional program in the Boston area that has done substantial work in looking at options for handling sea level rise along its shoreline. You can see great illustrations of the possibilities for adaptation at its website here>>>.

Resiliency is becoming a key topic at the Urban Land Institute. The first extensive report was a set of recommendations in response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. You can read this report here>>>.

Additionally, ULI – The Urban Land Institute is having its first major conference on the topic of Resiliency on September 4-5  in San Francisco. You can get the full details of this conference here>>>.

The Sea Grant College at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa has a recent publication on the latest findings and guide to additional resources available for download as a pdf here>>>.

Katie Anderson, Aug. 1, 2014

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