By Ruby Pap

global-warmingLast month, I had the privilege of speaking about climate change amongst a distinguished panel of experts to a packed house at Niumalu Canoe Club. The event, which was sponsored by Apollo Kaua‘i, proved especially poignant given the hot temperature of the room and the high turnout of the audience.

After a very informative talk about the science of global warming, greenhouse gases and the human contribution by Dr. Stephen Taylor, I spoke about impacts we can expect to see in Hawai‘i. Given the nature of the evening’s program, we were able to highlight temperature and why we will experience much more heat within our lifetimes.

Sure, natural climate variability has always existed, and we are currently experiencing one of the strongest El Niño events in recorded history. This affects temperature and precipitation in the Pacific region. But, this summer provides an opportunity to feel firsthand what is to become more common due to global warming. While the temperature climate has gone up and down in our history, scientific studies show a clear overall global warming trend, and the unusual will soon become the norm.

This graph shows the projected timing of 'climate departure' for Hawai‘i when our annual average temperature will exceed the historical bounds of past temperature variability (shaded grey). Hawai‘i is projected to reach climate departure by 2023 under a high greenhouse gas concentration scenario (red), and by 2050 under a moderate scenario (yellow). Source: Mora et al 2013.

This graph shows the projected timing of ‘climate departure’ for Hawai‘i when our annual average temperature will exceed the historical bounds of past temperature variability (shaded grey). Hawai‘i is projected to reach climate departure by 2023 under a high greenhouse gas concentration scenario (red), and by 2050 under a moderate scenario (yellow). Source: Mora et al 2013.

In its fifth report on the physical science of global climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that warming of Earth’s climate system is unequivocal and most of the temperature increases since the mid-20th century is “extremely likely” caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases from human activities. The last three decades were the warmest since 1850, and the last 30 years were likely the warmest 30 years in the last 1,400 years.

In terms of research specific to Hawai‘i (by Safeeq, Giambelluca, and Keener et al), air temperature has exhibited a consistent increasing trend over the last 100 years, the rate of which has quadrupled in the last 40 years to over 0.3° F per decade. If the world continues to