Global warming has affected the islands in a number of ways:

  • Rainfall has decreased 22% in Hawaiʻi over the last 30 years, and key groundwater levels have declined.
  • Our cooling tradewinds have declined by 28%; in 1973 Hawaiʻi recorded 291 “trade wind days,” but by 2009 the number had dropped to only 210.
  • Rising air temperatures result in more evaporation from soil and surface water.
  • More frequent and intensive drought from climate change threatens farmers, ranchers and our economy.
  • King tides combined with ever increasing sea level rise have already impacted south shore beaches, beachfront walkways, and flooded streets and businesses in Waikīkī and Mapunapuna.
  • Rising sea levels have increasingly eroded beaches, damaged roads, and compromised the safety of ocean-front homes, especially on the windward and north shores of Oʻahu.


It’s clear that modern development, the footprint associated with increased tourism, and heavy infrastructure have all put pressure on our local environment. There are more plants and animals indigenous to Hawaiʻi that have become extinct or are on the federal government’s endangered species list than on the entire North American continent. Hawaiʻi has only .2% of the nation’s land, but 72.1% of extinctions in the United States and 27% of its rare or endangered species. Hawaiʻi’s remote location has made it especially vulnerable to sudden environmental change.


Global warming will affect future development and tourism in Hawaiʻi in a myriad of ways: beachfront properties including hotels will face more risks from sea level rise and storm impacts, if shorelines are hardened more beach erosion and loss will occur which impacts tourism, and under the current climate trajectory all coral reefs will be threatened with extinction by 2050. Tourism in Hawaiʻi relies on natural resources, so as our watersheds, beaches and reefs are increasingly imperiled by climate change so too is our economy.


The Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency is part of the Mayor/Managing Director Office and helps develop policies to address our climate crisis. Since the Office officially launched on May 1, 2017 with its first staff, Mayor Caldwell has committed to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement, achieve 100% renewable energy on Oʻahu by 2045, and achieve 100% renewable ground transportation by 2045. Many departments at the City and County of Honolulu are making progress on helping eliminate greenhouse gasses including piloting electric buses, installing new bike lanes, implementing complete street policies, kick-starting the Biki bike sharing project, and installing LED street lighting across the entire island of Oʻahu.

The Office is also working right now to create a Resilience Strategy that will set out goals and additional recommendations to reduce Oʻahu’s carbon footprint.  

5. How has your occupation increased or decreased the number of greenhouse gases entering the air?

Chief Resilience Officers are responsible for helping their cities adapt to a changing world. In Hawaiʻi, we are more vulnerable as an island community than many other populations. We need mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, including finding ways to reduce greenhouse gases in transportation (via rail, electric buses, bike sharing), improving City energy efficiency, and implementing transit oriented development so we can use cars less. On a personal level, I talk about how much better it is for our quality of life when we do these things. My electric car is more fun to drive, but I also get to spend more time with family because I never have to stop and spend time at a gas station or getting an oil change ever again! I also use the Biki bike share to get around to all my meetings during the day—it’s much faster, don’t have to worry about parking, and a great way to get exercise without going to a gym.

6. How can the state or federal government reduce the production of greenhouse gases/fossil fuels?

In the state of Hawaii, Act 234 and the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative are the two major laws and policies for mitigating climate change.  In 2007, the state of Hawaii signed Act 234, one of the first state level laws enacted to reduce greenhouse gases.  This law included multiple components that required the state to strategize planning for emissions reductions.  The law also directed the Department of Health to adopt rules that would require GHG emission limits to applicable sources (including power plants). The current rule requires emissions reduction to 13,660 kilotons of CO2 by 2020 (1990 levels). 

In 2008, the State of Hawaii signed a memorandum establishing the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership between the State of Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy; The Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT); and the Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. (HECO).  This partnership has agreed to achieving 70% clean energy for transportation and electricity generation by 2030.  This initiative has also spurred research and development of renewable energy technology (including biofuel production as well as geothermal energy).  More information can be found through the following links:



7. How have other Country's governments made efforts to address global warming?

1.       Kyoto Protocol: The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force in February 2005. It’s an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets. The Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities.” The United States did not agree to enter the Kyoto Protocol.

Doha Amendment: The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in December 2012, and includes new commitments to the Kyoto Protocol, including a revised list of greenhouse gases and amendments to several articles of the Protocol. The United States was not party to this agreement.

Paris Agreement: 197 countries signed the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (aka the Paris Agreement) committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limit global temperature rise, limit global temperature rise, and increase climate resilience. The United States committed to the Paris Agreement under President Obama, but the Trump Administration subsequently announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement (the USA is now the only county on the globe that is not committed to the Agreement).

Chicago Climate Charter: President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement spurred over 380 cities in the U.S., and countless organizations worldwide to commit themselves to the Agreement. Member cities have set various targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

8. How has the State and/or federal government made changes to Hawaiʻi and the U.S. laws to help reduce our carbon footprint?

America’s laws to help reduce our carbon footprint?
Hawaiʻi became the first state to enact a law to align a state government with the Paris Climate Agreement. SB 559 expanded strategies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide, and formalized a State Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission.

In 2015, during the previous administration, President Obama issued an executive order directing agencies to cut the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas emissions 40%.

9. How has global warming's current status affected people's daily lives globally?

All around the globe, farmers, city authorities and scientists have observed changing patterns of rainfall, temperature rises and floods. Delta regions, semi-arid countries, glacier- and snow-pack dependent river basins, tropical coastal regions, forests and cities are all in the frontline.

Climate change-related drought and water shortages in Syria contributed to the unrest that stoked the country’s 2011 civil war. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people, primarily farmers and herders, to lose their livelihoods and leave their land, move to urban areas, and magnify Syria’s general destabilization. The combined impact of many more people, higher temperatures and changing weather patterns on the region’s already scarce freshwater resources poses further potential for conflict.

Climate refugees also come from Bangladesh, and southern Africa, regions where people haven’t seen rain for more than a year and are struggling to grow their crops. Conversely, west African countries are expected to be able to grow more food as temperatures rise and rainfall increases. Climate change may mean Nigeria, Ghana and Togo can grow and export more crops.

The Arctic is experience more dramatic climate change than any other region on the globe. Temperatures are rising, snow is melting earlier, and there are new species of fish. Longyearbyen, Norway has had 2 avalanches in 2016-2017, both defined as 1,000-year events.  The Greenland ice sheet and the Arctic glaciers are melting, the permafrost temperatures are warming, there is increased coastal erosion, and the treeline and species are migrating northward. Local communities can no longer keep their food in the ground because the thaw increased. Given our current emission rates of 35-40 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year, the Arctic is expected to be ice-free in about 20 years. The changes taking place in the arctic have ramifications everywhere.

In the Brazilian Amazon, widespread deforestation is contributing to exacerbated effects of climate change. Efforts to replace the forests, a high-evaporating vegetation, with pasture land lead to less to less evaporating. Hot spells in such humid climates are a real health hazard. Meager attempts to mitigate these effects include planting trees to cool streets and protect the river banks from flooding. As the Amazon dries, tropical forest will gradually shift to savanna, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and further adding to global warming.

In New York, spring begins 1 week earlier than it did in the 1970s, there is less winter snow, more intense downpours, many birds and fish populations are moving north, storm surges and flooding are more common in coastal areas due to sea level rise, and mosquito-borne illnesses are becoming more prevalent.

In the Philippines, super typhoons, sea-level rise, storm surges, heat stress, extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, drought, increased aridity, water scarcity and air pollution are all contributing to widespread negative like loss of homes and livelihoods, water contamination, food scarcity, displacement of whole communities, disease outbreaks, and loss of life. 

10. How does global warming affect our survival
in Hawaiʻi?

Scientists project that Hawaiʻi will experience a sea-level rise of 3.2 feet sometime between 2050 and 2100, depending on how quickly we can reduce our global carbon emission. But time frame aside, we need to begin preparing for at least 3.2 feet of rise as we build for the future. Climate change will reshape life in the islands:

  • Communities will be exposed to more flood events, just like we recently saw in Kauaʻi and East Honolulu. Houses will need to be removed from flood zones and designs will need to be elevated.
  • Sea level rise is projected to negatively impact $12.9 billion in private property value on Oʻahu alone.
  • 38 miles of coastal roads would be chronically flooded and become impassible, jeopardizing critical access to many communities.
  • Cultural and historical sites would become chronically flooded.
  • 13 miles of beaches will be lost on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu and Māui to erosion fronting seawalls and other shoreline armoring.
  • Hurricanes are projected to both increase in strength and number, and the storm surge associated with a strike will exacerbated by sea level rise.
  • Waikīkī, in many ways the center of the state’s economy, will need to grapple with sea level rise implications.