Consequences of global warming aren’t too far off
The effects of rising sea levels already can be seen in Hawaii.
IF a picture is worth a thousand words, then a photograph of marine geologist Charles Fletcher at Waikiki Beach simply holding a meter stick upright in the sand
spoke volumes about what's in store for Hawaii as sea levels rise due to global warming.
Taken at the current high water mark, the photo by the Star-Bulletin's Dennis Oda shows that the typical scene of sunbathing visitors and beach umbrellas at Oahu's premiere tourism district would be submerged in 39 inches of water come the year 2100.
As far off as that is, the effects of warming already are evident in low-lying areas like Mapunapuna Road that see recurrent flooding when rain and high tides come together.
Without a global commitment to slow climate change, Hawaii and the rest of the world face devastating, wide-ranging consequences. Yet the United States, which should be leading the effort, continues to thwart international agreements to limit emissions of greenhouse gases that largely cause warming.
After years of denying climate change, the Bush administration has reluctantly acknowledged it but rejects the need for a global strategy to tackle global problem.
As about 150 nations and 80 heads of state or governments discuss the issue this week at the United Nations, President Bush is noticeably absent. He will instead hold his own meeting to voice opposition to worldwide limits.
The president's stubborn stance has prompted state governments -- concerned about threats to their economies, ecosystems and communities' health -- to adopt their own strategies.
Hawaii passed legislation this year that places limits on greenhouse gases, similar to standards adopted by California and nine other states. But the Bush administration is attempting to check even those. For the states' limits to be enforced, the Environmental Protection Agency must waive regulations with weaker restrictions, but the EPA has yet to clear California's 2-year-old request. Further, the administration apparently has begun a behind-the-scenes lobbying effort, asking members of Congress and other states' governors to oppose the waiver when the EPA is supposed to make decisions independently.
The administration argues that we need federal standards for emissions. That would be best, but it has refused to adopt them. It is in that vacuum that states have moved ahead, recognizing that while collective actions would be more effective, they cannot wait as the administration drags its feet.
Global warming is already in motion, as evident in the islands. Geologist Fletcher, whose University of Hawaii research team predicts rising sea levels will turn McKinley High School into beachfront property, says when the year's highest tides occur in November, he would not be surprised to see ocean water flow out of storm drains on Ala Wai Boulevard.
The time to act is now.