Hawai'i’s adaptation efforts: perspectives from community, county and the state, moving forward on multiple fronts

Hawai'i’s adaptation efforts: perspectives from community, county and the state, moving forward on multiple fronts

Daniele Spirandelli
University of Hawaii-Manoa
Time Slot: 
Concurrent Sessions 7
Session Type: 

Over the past several years, Hawai’i has been at the center of climate adaptation efforts by state, county, indigenous and NGO partners. This symposium will highlight several efforts and approaches implemented across multiple scales and sectors, each engaging actors from research and practice to develop strategies that integrate climate change science into decision-making.

Three presenters highlight statewide efforts to address (1) climate impacts to terrestrial and freshwater systems, and (2) sea level rise impacts to coastal communities. All three will discuss the development, dissemination, and use of guidance and tools developed to support resource managers and planners to identify and implement adaptation actions. Two presenters will discuss county responses that are currently under way, each effort taking place at different levels and using different approaches. The first is at the community scale in West Kauai and integrates climate science with local knowledge and expertise using a mediated modeling approach. The second presentation focuses on adaptation responses by the City and County of Honolulu, a member of the 100 Resilient Cities network.

All of the work described involves working closely in partnership with communities, state and local governments, and non-profits to build a shared understanding of vulnerabilities, priorities and strategies for adaptation. Presenters will reflect upon issues that arise when translating climate science into useable knowledge, working across sectors and different knowledge domains.


From Research to Action on Climate Change in Hawai'i: The Adaptation Initiatives Model
Wendy Miles, East West Center
  • Deanna Spooner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Jeff Burgett, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Lucas Fortini, USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
  • Patrick Grady, Hawaiʻi Cooperative Studies Unit
  • Lauren Kaiser, Hawaiʻi Cooperative Studies Unit
  • Peggy Foreman, NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office
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How do we ensure that climate change research and information is integrated into natural resource management through the main Hawaiian Islands? This question lies at the heart of a multi-year effort led by the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC) beginning in 2014. The PICCC set out to convene an effective science-management partnership focused on developing a comprehensive understanding of how climate change is affecting terrestrial and freshwater systems and the biological, cultural, and social values they support. The objectives were to: identify current climate science, as well as critical needs and gaps; synthesize best available climate science to support reliable and timely decision-making and stewardship; increase understanding of how biocultural resources are vulnerable to climate change, in addition to the compounding effects of non-climatic stressors; develop scientific, policy, and outreach resources to support adaptation planning and implementation; facilitate the creation of adaptation options to reduce vulnerabilities; and engage conservation leaders in climate change adaptation, supporting their capacity to make climate-informed decisions in their management of terrestrial and freshwater resources. This presentation explores the genesis of the Hawaiian Islands Terrestrial Adaptation Initiative (HITAI) effort, how the broader conservation community engaged in and shaped this process, and the lessons learned along the way. We will share a sampling of hundreds of freely-available decision-support tools and products unveiled in 2018 through the interactive, ArcGIS-based HITAI Story Map. One key lesson to be discussed is the necessity of strong working relationships and an iterative engagement process for this type of initiative to succeed.

The Hawai'i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report
Brad Romine, University of Hawai'i Sea Grant and Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center
  • Catherine A. Courtney, Tetra Tech
  • Sam Lemmo, Hawaii Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands
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Over the last several years, Hawaii has taken a number of important steps in improving our understanding of climate change and sea level rise risks to our islands and beginning to prioritize and address actions needed from the State to community level. State legislation in 2014 and a follow-up bill in 2017 created a State Interagency Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission and directed the commission through the Department of Land and Natural Resources to produce the Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report. The report was completed in December 2017 and presents a broad assessment of potential impacts from sea level rise within this century. Other important strides have been taken at the state and county level, following the report, to begin preparing local government and communities for climate change and sea level rise. In this talk, I’ll provide an overview of the State Report, describe cutting-edge hazard modeling and mapping and vulnerability assessment done for the report, share a companion online mapping tool, and discuss some of the positive impacts so far, as well as ongoing efforts.

Integrating Resilience to Coastal Hazards with Sea Level Rise in County Long-range Planning and Disaster Reconstruction
Catherine A. Courtney, Tetra Tech, Inc.
  • Brad Romine, University of Hawaii Sea Grant College
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Increasing resilience to coastal hazards necessitates planning for impacts from both chronic hazards (e.g., coastal erosion, sea level rise inundation) and disasters events (e.g., extreme high wave events, tropical cyclones, tsunamis).  Under a NOAA Regional Coastal Resilience Grant, the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program and Tetra Tech, Inc. are developing and testing guidance for integrating resilience to coastal hazards and sea level rise in state, county, and community plans for long range planning and disaster reconstruction.

Integrating Climate Science with Local Knowledge through Community Vulnerability Assessments in West Kaua'i
Ruby Pap, University of Hawai'i Sea Grant College and County of Kaua'i Planning Department
  • Daniele Spirandelli, University of Hawaii Urban and Regional Planning & Sea Grant
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The West Kauaʻi Community Vulnerability Assessment (WKCVA) is working with west side communities to identify vulnerabilities from sea level rise and generate ideas for adapting to change.   The process is facilitated by a team from the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning using the Vulnerability, Consequences, and Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) model (a joint project of the Social and Environmental Research Institute and the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments Programs).  The WKCVA, which involves a number of detailed community meetings and field trips, interweaves the latest scientific data and climate projections with the knowledge of the community.

Assessment of Sea Level Rise Exposure in Hawaiʻi and Adaptation Responses of Honolulu
Zena N. Grecni, East-West Center
  • Victoria Keener, East-West Center
  • Charles H. Fletcher III, University of Hawaiʻi School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST)
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In the span of a year, two assessments provided the scientific basis for the City and County of Honolulu to develop adaptation responses to sea level rise. The State of Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation report (2017) evaluated erosion and flood patterns and future economic vulnerability from sea level rise. A key recommendation was the adoption of a sea level rise exposure area, now widely accepted by various agencies in Hawai’i as a critical zone worthy of special policy development. The mayor of Honolulu, on the advice of the Honolulu Climate Change Commission, in 2018 directed all city departments and agencies to plan for extreme high tide flooding associated with 3.2 feet of sea level rise by mid-century and to consider 6 feet of sea level rise in later decades of the century for large infrastructure projects. The release of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) in late 2018 reinforced these actions by calling attention to sea level rise’s disproportionate impact on the tropical Pacific and the potential cost-savings of early consideration. Frequent and ongoing communication among a community of technical experts, public stakeholders, and Honolulu officials is key to enabling the adoption of science-based adaptation guidance.