Global Warming Issues

– Local Level



The problem of global warming in Hawaii did not just appear out of the blue. There has been speculation for quite some time about what global warming and the melting of ice caps could mean for Hawaii and its low-lying Waikiki. Most of the experts feel the oceans are and will continue to slowly rise unless people take more steps to reduce the “green house effect” from CO2 and other gases of the industrial age. Judging from the history of what global warming has done to Hawaii thus far, a 3.6 foot rise in the ocean level would cover much of the resort area and inundate tourism as we know it. Not only is Waikiki in danger, but Honolulu International Airport could also be under water along with all of our gorgeous beaches.

Beyond the eight main islands, the Hawaiian chain is mostly made of undersea mountains that stretch 1,500 miles northwest toward Japan. Hawaii sits atop what is called the Pacific Plate. This vast part of the Earth’s crust moves toward Asia at the rate of about 4 inches a year. If the Earth’s crust keeps moving as it has for millions of years, the islands that we call Hawaii will eventually disappear below the waves, taking everything with them: Waikiki Hotels, freeways, Diamond Head. Houses that were once 20 miles from the shore are now just 40 feet from shore.

As glaciers are melting the global sea level is on the rise, and Hawaii’s reefs are getting sick and dying. The ocean has risen about 6 to 8 inches over the past century. This causes issues for costal landowners and public beaches because the higher the sea level, the farther the shorelines move inland. There are significant issues on several Hawaiian shorelines, particularly along the eroding sand beaches on O’ahu and Maui. Scientists have said that many Northwestern Hawaiian Islands may be submerged by 2100 because of global warming.

Scientists report that we have less time to combat global warming than we realize. Measurements of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, taken from a 12,000-foot observatory on Mauna Loa, suggest atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen sharply in the past two years, hinting at the possibility of irreparable damage due to global warming.

Global warming, and how it is affecting economies, resources, populations, animal habitats, weather and tourism, is constantly in the news. This phenomenon is real, causing significant changes in weather patterns, and beginning to have profound impact on travelers. Also, there is now an increasing number of devastating natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis and forest fires. These disasters are costly for the government as well as the environment, causing bad food harvest and loss of money.

Hawaii is home to colonies of many unique animals: bird species, rare seals and sea turtles that will be affected as their low-lying island homes become submerged. Coral reefs form in shallow ocean waters from external skeletons of coral; warmer water temperatures, due to global warming, can cause coral bleaching, and death. Even if the temperature only increases by a few degrees, many of the organisms who live and depend on the coral reef will die. The sun causes the colorful tissue of the coral to be stripped away, leaving behind the bone-white skeleton.

Global warming also presents problems with insects and other pests. Hawaii’s hot temperatures already allow mosquitoes to roam and spread disease. Warmer temperatures in Hawaii will allow mosquitoes to climb to higher ground, carrying avian malaria with them to attack the native birds of Hawaii. Mosquitoes continue to plague Hawaiian Honeycreepers, endemic species that have been crowded into high-elevation forests on the upper edge of their former range due to habitat destruction by humans. Climate change has directly affected the Pacific island species and ecosystems and it is very likely that its effects are multiplied by other human activities that affect habitat.
– JK



Global warming has been receiving a lot of press attention lately across the United States, but it would have a different impact on the Hawaiian Islands than on the rest of the country.

The average ocean temperature has risen about 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970. Hurricanes form using energy from warm water. Therefore, the more warm water available, the more energy available and more, powerful hurricanes and other tropical storms will occur. The rising ocean temperatures may also be contributing to the bleaching of coral that is occurring off the coasts of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. (1)

The average air temperature has risen as well. This is a result of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; warmer air in the atmosphere causes moreCO2 to be released into the air from the soil, raising the air temperature even higher. Scientists at the observatory on Mauna Loa measured a CO2 density of 379 parts per million in March of 2004, up from 376 parts per million the year before. The rising temperatures have caused many glaciers and ice caps to melt and drastically raise the level of ocean water and they put low-lying coasts and islands in danger. (2)

One of the greatest aspects of Hawaii is our vast biodiversity. “Of more than 22,000 known species in Hawaii, 8,850 are found only on the islands.”(3) A small island in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands called Whale Skate Island was completely inundated by rising sea water levels in the last 20 years and it is now under water. The island was only ten to fifteen acres in size but it was home to Hawaiian monk seals, turtles, birds and varied vegetation. After losing their homes, those seals, turtles and birds needed to find a new place to start over.(3) A coral reef biologist named Tom Marages informed reporters that: “‘At all of our refuges in the remote Pacific Islands over the last 20 years, there’s been at least some coral bleaching,’ he said. ‘These are places that have no people. There’s no other excuses [sic] except for that there was warm temperatures.’”(3) If this is true, the coral reefs surrounding Hawaii may be in grave danger. Since many fish who live in and around coral reefs feed on the organisms that lived in the bleached coral, they must vacate the reefs to search for a new source of food. If this danger is proven true, entire ecosystems that once thrived in the coral reefs may crumble.

So many of the results of global warming are changing and destroying beautiful aspects of Hawaii. So many people thriving coral reefs as well as the indigenous and endemic species including Hawaii’s vibrant native birds.

Scientists cannot completely positively identify the cause of global warming but most believe that pollution and greenhouse gases are at least a large contributing factor. Pollution is a result of gas-producing machines such as cars and factories. The largest local producers of pollution are the industrial factories that burn fuels and release the by-products into the atmosphere. Everyone in Hawaii will eventually be affected by the results of global warming. Tourism, the basis of Hawaii’s economy may eventually suffer and fishermen may not catch enough fish to sustain their livelihood. In the years to come, it is possible that we will feel the effects of global warning all over Hawaii.



Global Warming could quickly turn into a huge problem in Hawaii if some changes are not soon made. There are many things Hawaii’s government could do if it had unlimited resources and money. For example, the government could provide every car owner with an electric, solar or a hydrogen-powered car so there would no longer be any carbon greenhouse emissions from fossil fuel burning cars. Also, to further decrease CO2 in the atmosphere, we could fill the old, unused sugar cane fields with trees to take in the excess CO2 and produce more oxygen. To decrease the carbon dioxide level in the Pacific Ocean, we could bring in more marine vegetation to decrease CO2 and increase O2 levels. We could also convert all factories from gasoline and coal to alternative power like solar and nuclear. To save all of the endangered and endemic species who call Hawaii home, we would need to select a certain number of members of each population and recreate their necessary habitats, complete with climate control in some sort of wildlife preserve or menagerie. However, taking our native species and caging them in artificial environments is highly unethical since we are the reason their own habitats are being destroyed.

There are many new ideas for alternative sources of energy for Hawaii so that we will not be dependent on gasoline. For example, since our islands are surrounded by ocean, we could harness the power of the waves using buoys. Another alternative is to create wind farms on the islands to capture the wind energy. Another concern for Hawaii’s sustainability is that we are running out of fresh water without any plan in place to increase the supply. One very attainable option is desalination. Since we are surrounded by so much water that is undrinkable, we might as well desalinate it so that we have access to a greater supply of fresh water.
– MK



Realistically, Hawaii’s legislature needs to protect the islands from the affects of global warming and strive to reduce global warming altogether. Because Hawaii is a small state it only creates a small percentage of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. While Hawaii improves its own policies and reduces the emission of greenhouse gases it is important the state government raises awareness and support to combat global warming. Hawaii is the home to many endemic species that are at risk if global warming continues; Hawaii’s economy is based on tourism and if Hawaii begins to look like L.A. because of smog, Hawaii’s human residents will suffer along with its endemic species. Hawaii has much to lose to global warming and certain steps need to be taken.

It is very important that people start using renewable energy sources instead of using burning fossil fuels which create more greenhouse gases. The governor of Hawaii has signed an important bill stating that by the year 2020, 20 percent of the energy used by Hawaii should come from renewable sources. Right now only eight percent of Hawaii’s electricity is renewable. The governor is also working to make e10 available at every gas station. Eventually this will lead to an even more earth-friendly fuel, e85. Until that time the state government needs to invest money into raising support for the issue. There is no point in offering the choice of e10 fuel if people don’t even understand the benefits. I believe that more money should be spent campaigning against global warming instead of building separate bike lanes. The proposal in place for a double bike lane alongside Baldwin Ave. in Makawao in upcountry Maui would be expensive and probably futile because it might never have a huge impact on people who drive to work. If this money was used to stimulate support for the reduction of greenhouse gases locally or nationally it would have a much greater impact. I believe that all of the future goals can be achieved but the state government is reluctant to invest in some of them because of the risk. Spending money to alert the nation about the dangers of global warming and the affect it would have on people might not show immediate results like a bike lane. But it is not enough for one state to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases.

As a citizen, there are a lot of small things that one can do to help reduce global warming. Using a push lawn mower instead of a power lawn mower will reduce the amount of CO2 pollution in the atmosphere by eighty pounds a year. Wrapping the water heater in an insulating jacket will save the atmosphere from one thousand pounds of CO2. But the best way to stop global warming is to spread the knowledge. Letting your representative hear your opinion is an effective way to voice your concerns. He or she cannot represent the public’s opinion if it is not known. Starting clubs and websites that are easily accessible could also alert people to the problem.

If global warming is allowed to continue, there would be huge consequences that would directly affect the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands. A respected team of scientists backed by National Geographic fears that in one-hundred years that the ocean will rise by 18.9 inches. The rising ocean will swallow up to two thirds of many of the North Western Hawaiian Islands that trail off of the Hawaiian Islands. Rare species like the Hawaiian monk seal could lose their breeding grounds if Trig Island disappears as predicted. Another study suggest that temperatures could rise five to ten degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Personally I believe scorching temperatures and polluted cites would not raise the appeal of Hawaii in the eyes of tourists. In order to stop global warming, we need the support of everyone; please be earth friendly for the sake of endangered species, the earth, ourselves, and the future.
– SL

Pictures used in this article were originally downloaded by blazczak on flickr
– LM
– JK

– MK
– SL



%d bloggers like this: