A University of Hawaii report is warning the state’s tourism industry to start preparing now for the effects of climate change.
The study says Hawaii will likely see more competition for visitors as warmer climate zones expand and new, easier-to-reach tropical resorts emerge in coastal regions from Texas to Florida, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.
Hawaii will be a hotter place, with fewer cooling trade winds and more drought, fewer waterfalls and forest streams. Sea levels will rise, meaning there will be fewer beaches and more flooding as the coast erodes.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority paid for the report, which suggests strategies for adapting to the changes.
Dolan Eversole, UH Sea Grant Program coastal hazards extension agent and one of the authors of the report, said a rise in greenhouse gases around the world is already changing the earth’s climate. But he said people may not experience major effects for 20, 30 or 50 years.
“It’s like a freight train,” Eversole said. “We can see it coming. Are we going to be ready?”
One of the biggest challenges for the state and its tourism industry will be rising sea levels. Because nearly all of Hawaii’s hotels are located near the shore, the resorts can expect to be under increasing attack from flooding and storm surges, the report said.
“We have a very steep hill to climb to get on top of this problem,” said UH associate dean and geology professor Charles Fletcher, one of dozens of experts who contributed to the report.
Some Hawaii beaches will erode by 50 feet or more by midcentury, Fletcher said, and some beaches will disappear.
Increasingly, Hawaii will be faced with the choice of either armoring its shorelines to protect hotels and other buildings and risk losing even more sandy shorelines, or conducting a managed and potentially costly retreat from the coast to maintain healthy sand beaches.
Waikiki Beach may have to undergo constant sand replenishment to exist. And it wouldn’t be cheap: The last Waikiki sand nourishment program in 2012 cost $4.5 million.
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