On Maui, Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) volunteers and members met in Kahului, and South Maui Sustainability members, Kīhei Charter School students and other volunteers met at Azeka Plaza for an event called the “Blue Line Project.”
Participants drew blue chalk lines based on NOAA topographic data to indicate the extent of flooding from a three-foot rise in sea level. Why three feet? According to data and observations of accelerated ice sheet melting, it seems likely that sea level is destined to rise at least that much by the end of the century—if we don’t act now to stop further climate change.
In Hawai‘i, sea-level rise is a particular concern. Although it’s unlikely we’ll see waves crashing across our streets to the blue line level, the possibility that we’ll need to share our sidewalks with the fishes exists. Buildings makai of the blue line will probably be inhabitable, but tenants will have to time their trips between the tides. Even though the experts are not advising us to move to Kula to enjoy future beachfront property, low-lying coastal areas will not only be increasingly vulnerable to hazards such as tsunami, hurricanes and storm surges, but rising coastal groundwater will likely to lead to widespread flooding and destruction of roads, buildings and ag lands.
Land lying below sea level in the future will probably be dry at low tide during arid summers. But beaches will disappear along with the species that inhabit them, such as honu, which need sand for nesting. But possibly the most devastating effect will be made by saltwater that will intrude into freshwater aquifers, making them unusable for drinking and irrigation.
While we cannot stop climate change, there’s still time to slow its effects by reducing the amount of CO2 we produce. Then, natural carbon sinks like forests and the ocean, can absorb and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere, which will reduce CO2 to safe levels (from 390 to under 350 parts per million).
We already know that we need to do everything we can to lead low-carbon lives. But even more important is the necessity for international agreement, cooperation and support for greenhouse gas reductions.
In December, world leaders will meet in Denmark to decide the fate of our planet at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. We should let our leaders know that we support policies that enforce CO2 reductions and encourage elected officials to make difficult decisions and take action.
We must draw a line in the sand—the sooner we act, the sooner nature can start recovering.