Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach – celebrated around the world for its both it eye-grabbing beauty and decades-old surf culture – could be under water in a matter of years as as result of rising sea levels triggered by climate change, politicians have warned.
In the latest alert about the threat to the shoreline of Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu, legislators have said the city could start to experience frequent flooding within the next 15 to 20 years. They have warned such a development would have a devastating affect on tourism, on which much of the state relies.
Hawaiian politicians are demanding efforts to try and protect the vulnerable shoreline begin now.
“The latest data on sea level rise is quite scary and it’s accelerating faster than we ever thought possible,” said state representative Chris Lee, a Democrat and lead author of a bill that calls for the creation of a protection plan. The project would focus on urban Honolulu, but it would also act as a pilot program for other coastal communities around the state.
The bill that has been tabled by Mr Lee, HB1487, notes that due to climate change, Hawaii has seen over one-half foot of sea level rise in recent decades, and the rate of sea level rise is quickly accelerating.
“Data shows that Honolulu is expected to begin seeing regular flooding of the urban core in as little as fifteen years. Climate change and warming seas are also causing Hawaii to see more hurricanes of increasing intensity than ever before,” it says.
“A direct hit on Honolulu is expected to mean a loss of $40,000,000,000 to Hawaii’s infrastructure and economy.
“The loss of coastal property and infrastructure, increased cost for storm damage and insurance, and loss of life are inevitable if nothing is done, which will add a significant burden to local taxpayers, the state’s economy, and way of life.”
Mr’s Lee’s bill drains attention to the damage caused to New York city after a storm surge from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. After suffering $19bn of damage from the surge, the city and state started a comprehensive shoreline protection project.
The Hawaii measure proposes sinking $4m into the programme’s development over the next two years. The bill also seeks more research into a carbon tax that might raise funds and lower the state’s dependence on fossil fuels.
“The plan will allow shoreline neighbourhoods to expand park space, redevelop the urban landscape, and add amenities to enrich their communities,” says the bill.
“Most of all, it will provide critical sea level rise and flood protection from storm events which will reduce disaster cost to taxpayers, reduce risk to the city, and save lives in the event of disaster.”