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Ige signs bill requiring study of sea-level rise before building

The Maui News – Gov. David Ige has signed into law a bill that requires an analysis of sea-level rise in environmental impact statements, winning praise from environmental groups.

“Sea-level rise is already having an impact on beaches, roadways and homes near the shoreline,” Ige said in an announcement. “As a result, we face difficult land-use decisions, and requiring an analysis of sea-level rise before beginning construction is just plain common sense.”

House Bill 2106 took effect upon Ige’s approval Monday and became Act 17.

Maui Tomorrow Executive Director Albert Perez said Tuesday that the measure was “critically important.”

“It will help protect our beaches and coastal ecosystems (and therefore our tourism-dependent economy) by making sure that sea-level rise is no longer ignored when evaluating proposed developments,” he said. “It will also help to prevent unwise investments in public highways and other facilities that will be affected by sea-level rise during their lifetimes; this will save huge amounts of taxpayer dollars. We have known about this issue for decades, and it is gratifying to finally see it being taken seriously.”

Sierra Club Hawai’i Executive Director Marti Townsend said a recent study estimated that sea-level rise would cause $19 billion in damage to private property in Hawaii.

“While this number is astronomical, it is merely a beginning estimate, for it only counts the loss to private businesses and personal property, not critical public infrastructure like roads, schools and utilities that are also at immense risk,” she said.

West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey took part in the bill signing Monday at the Point Panic surf spot on Oahu.

“Sea-level inundation is already having an impact on our beaches, the Honoapiilani Highway, and homes and condos near the shoreline,” he said. “It just makes sense to finally take a proactive approach to adapting to sea-level rise so that we don’t approve more buildings or infrastructure in future tidal zones.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Alan Arakawa signed a proclamation that directed Maui County department directors to use the “Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report” in their plans, programs and capital improvement decisions and to mitigate impacts to infrastructure and critical facilities. The report was released in December by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Department of Planning has proposed rule changes for the Maui, Molokai and Lanai planning commissions to include sea-level rise in their shoreline setback calculations.

The governor also signed House Bills 2182 and 1986, both aimed at combating climate change.

House Bill 2182, which became Act 15, takes effect July 1. It makes Hawaii carbon neutral by 2045 and establishes the Greenhouse Gas Sequestration Task Force.

Ige pointed out that the pledge to be carbon neutral by 2045 is the same year Hawaii aims to generate 100 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources.

House Bill 1986, which became Act 16, also takes effect July 1. It creates a framework for a carbon-offset program that allows for carbon credits through global carbon sequestration protocols.

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide as a way of reducing the amount of gas released into the atmosphere.

Climate change, commonly called global warming, stems from rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, according to most scientists. Man-made sources include the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, deforestation and livestock raising.

In 2014, the U.S. Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of the United Kingdom reported that human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations by about 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution. More than half of the increase has happened since 1970, the scientists said.

Since 1900, the global average surface temperature has increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The rising temperature has been accompanied by ocean warming, a rise in sea level, a decline in Arctic sea ice and other associated climate effects, the scientists said.

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