Pacific RISA Hosts Workshops on Climate Change Impacts in Hawai’i


pacific risa east-west center

(Participants gather at the East-West Center for the Pacific RISA workshop on “Climate Change Impacts on Fresh Water Resources in Hawai’i” on July 15, 2011)

On July 8 and 15, 2011, the East-West Center hosted workshops organized by the Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program on “Climate Change Impacts on Fresh Water Resources in Hawai’i.” Funded by NOAA in support of the National Climate Assessment, the workshops aimed to understand decisions about how to manage fresh water resources sustainably in the face of a changing climate.

As part of Pacific RISA’s efforts to promote dialogue among key decision-makers, the two workshops brought academics, policymakers, technical specialists, and community and non-profit leaders together to answer four key questions: What impacts will climate change have on fresh water resources in the next 10-50 years? What do we need to know to effectively prepare for these impacts? What organizational, capacity, political, and other challenges do we face when gathering and using climate information to address these impacts? And how can we best confront these challenges?

Barry Usagawa and Gary Gill

(Barry Usagawa of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, left, and Gary Gill, Deputy Director of the Department of Health’s Environmental Planning Office, right, were among the workshop participants, which also included university professors and community and non-profit leaders.)

After presentations from local climate-change experts, including University of Hawai’i professors Tom Giambelluca and Kevin Hamilton, workshop participants engaged in a candid discussion of the future of local fresh water management in the face of potentially drier conditions. A drier climate will have ramifications for a wide variety of sectors. For example, compromised aquifer resources—both in terms of quantity, as demand for fresh water grows, and quality, due to salt water intrusion—may lead to reduced agricultural productivity, altered infrastructural needs, and demographic displacement of native plant and animal species. To mitigate and adapt to these potential setbacks, participants in both workshops stressed the need for greater information sharing and sustained efforts to translate the science into actionable language for policymakers as well as the general public. Such mainstreaming of climate science will require continued dialogue among government agencies and other public and private-sector stakeholders on the ground.

The Pacific RISA program helps Pacific Island communities understand, plan for, and manage climate risks.