There’s ‘no place on the planet’ — not even Hawaii — to escape climate change, experts say
When it gets cold every winter, Hawaii becomes an increasingly popular retreat.
But climate experts in the Aloha State told USA TODAY on Monday that tourists cannot escape climate change — not even on the islands, where 60-foot waves and wind gusts up to 191 mph were part of a fierce weekend storm that downed power lines and felled trees.
“There’s no place on the planet where (people) can expect to see conditions as they have been in the past,” said Chip Fletcher, an earth sciences professor at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and vice chair of the Honolulu Climate Change Commission.
From travelers to hotel businesses, Fletcher said everyone should factor climate change into their planning because extreme weather events will increase everywhere. On Sunday, for example, the Hawaii Tourism Authority advised visitors not to go hiking, swimming, snorkeling and surfing because of dangerous conditions.
This weekend’s damaging storm, Fletcher said, is a good example of an extreme weather event that is more likely to occur in a warmer world. Climate change set up the conditions for the extreme waves, as well as what officials said could be the lowest-elevation snowfall ever recorded in the state.
“We’re going to be dealing with this much, much more in the future with our changing climate,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a Sunday press conference, Hawaii News Now reported.
Effects of climate change in Hawaii include increases in the number of wildfires, sea surface and air temperatures, coastal erosion and extreme rain, Fletcher said. The state has also set new records in the occurrence of tropical cyclones and recorded more hurricanes, such as 2018’s Lane and Hector, in surrounding waters, he added.
In 24 hours, nearly 50 inches of rain fell in Kauai last April, causing flooding and setting a record for the United States. High ocean temperatures caused extreme coral bleaching throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago in 2015. The Honolulu tide gauge has also recorded a rising sea level since the beginning of the 20th century, Fletcher said.
More than 9,950,000 visitors came to Hawaii in 2018, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
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