On Tuesday, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) issued their 2014 findings on climate change and its effects throughout the U.S.
USGCRP was established in 1989 to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”
For the Hawaii and Pacific islands region, the report finds that the risk from climate changes will affect nearly every aspect of life.
The 2014 National Climate Assessment report for Hawaii and the Pacific listed 5 key messages:
- Key Message 1: Changes to Marine Ecosystems: Warmer oceans are leading to increased coral bleaching events and disease outbreaks in coral reefs, as well as changed distribution patterns of tuna fisheries. Ocean acidification will reduce coral growth and health. Warming and acidification, combined with existing stresses, will strongly affect coral reef fish communities.
- Key Message 2: Decreasing Freshwater Availability: Freshwater supplies are already constrained and will become more limited on many islands. Saltwater intrusion associated with sea level rise will reduce the quantity and quality of freshwater in coastal aquifers, especially on low islands. In areas where precipitation does not increase, freshwater supplies will be adversely affected as air temperature rises.
- Key Message 3: Increased Stress on Native Plants and Animals: Increasing temperatures, and in some areas reduced rainfall, will stress native Pacific Island plants and animals, especially in high-elevation ecosystems with increasing exposure to invasive species, increasing the risk of extinctions.
- Key Message 4: Sea Level Rising: Rising sea levels, coupled with high water levels caused by tropical and extra-tropical storms, will incrementally increase coastal flooding and erosion, damaging coastal ecosystems, infrastructure, and agriculture, and negatively affecting tourism.
- Key Message 5: Threats to Lives, Livelihoods, and Cultures: Mounting threats to food and water security, infrastructure, and public health and safety are expected to lead to increasing human migration from low to high elevation islands and continental sites, making it increasingly difficult for Pacific Islanders to sustain the region’s many unique customs, beliefs, and languages.