Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Climate Change: Preliminary Findings

Research Questions:
Climate change will cause some impacts to Hawaii’s environment. For example, sea level rise may threaten coastal infrastructure.
  1. Are climate changes issues, such as carbon emissions, coastal zone management, and sea level rise, adequately addressed in the current EIS system?
  2. How best can climate change impacts to Hawaii’s environment be incorporated into the environmental impact statement process?
Stakeholder Interview Comments
Overwhelmingly, interviewees responded that climate change is not addressed well, if at all. Primarily, this is due to a lack of methodology and a high degree of uncertainty. Moreover, many responded that the EIS is not the appropriate tool for addressing climate change. Some did suggest that the EIS is appropriate to address climate change in very specific, narrow terms.

The most common suggestions for addressing climate change were to:
  1. Establish standard indicators, baselines, and metrics to enable measuring impacts. The State should create a database that preparers may use to include in EISs.
  2. Integrate climate change into other tools such as long-range planning or agency guidelines and policies, not the EIS.
  3. Leave to national and State legislation to resolve. Impacts are too small at the local level to effectively address climate change.
Stakeholder Workshop Results
Session 1: Review of Results
The review of findings workshop generally regarded the EIS as not the best means to address climate change, though many considered the best way to address climate change to still be undetermined. A few considered climate change as best addressed at the long-range planning level. If one were to address it in an EIS, it should at least discuss how a project contributes to climate change in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and how climate change will affect a project.

Session 2: Discussion Group and Report Back
In contrast to the interviews and review of results, discussion participants supported integrating climate change into EIS documents. In particular, they recommended distinguishing between GHG emissions and long-range planning/policy issues. Climate change should be one of many issues examined in an EIS, but it should not be boilerplate or rubber-stamped.

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