Climate Change in the Islands

Jun 7, 2019

Charles “Chip” Fletcher studies how sea level rise causes problems on developed shorelines. A recent two year revision of his book, Climate Change: What the Science Tells Us, convinced Fletcher that hope is not the answer.
Credit Chip Fletcher

Charles “Chip” Fletcher is a Professor of Earth Science at UH Mānoa. He’s also Vice-Chair of the Honolulu Climate Change Commission and has recently published the second edition of his textbook on climate change.  This lengthy examination of the topic has been a life changing journey.

Credit Chip Fletcher

Charles "Chip" Fletcher actually strikes you as a sunny kind of guy, however, he authored the book, Climate Change: What the Science Tells Us , and it appears a two year immersion in climate science while you’re revising your textbook can truly summon the demons.   

”I mean it when I say I’ve found it very depressing to deal with climate change,” says Fletcher.

Fletcher says revising the second edition of his climate change book forced him to write almost exclusively about how bad it will be.  Facing the traumatic changes that have already begun was a tremendously painful process, but one that we may all have to go through.

Displaced Sudanese children fetch water using a submerged hand pump after floods in their villages in this United Nations photo.
Credit United Nations/Tim Kulka

“Searching for and finding solutions to this problem, such as offered by Jeremy Rifkin and the sharing economy and other folks has brought forward lots of very positive solutions that can be done not only individually but also collectively as communities and as governments," says Fletcher. I've been able to assimilate all of this in the already deep depths of despair where I am."  

"What I’ve learned is that it’s not about hope." Fletcher continues, "Hope is not going to get us out of this. It's about courage.  Its about having the bravery to number one, learn about it, become informed, and then exercise my information and practice talking about climate change."

Fletcher maintains there are lots of opportunities for a little courage that will make solving the climate change problem possible.  Like what, along with learning about it and talking about it? 

Giving up beef as the first line of attack is something Fletcher always mentions---he gave it up himself in the last year.  Fletcher continues, “The courage to avoid purchasing things that have a huge carbon footprint, that came here from far away.  The courage to serve the components in our society that have not been treated justly.  I think there are lots of places we, as people, can exercise more courage and it will contribute to the management of the climate change issue in Hawai‘i.”   

Fletcher is talking about a basic level of community involvement that emergency responders and disaster experts say does make a community more resilient. 

Drought and desertification, the flip side of flooding, is another increasing threat. Here, drying land in Manfuto, Timor-Leste.
Credit United Nations/Martine Perret

Fletcher says, “It’s a lifestyle. Living a life that is thoughtfully conscious of our decisions. Most of the time, deciding to make a change that is consistent with resolving climate change also is a change that is better for your health.  Giving up beef, staying away from plastics, these kinds of decisions are better for us.”

Look for continuing coverage of climate change in Hawai‘i here at HPR.

Until the next installment, this video of Greta Thunberg's speech at the R20 Austrian World Summit in Vienna, May 2019, may steel your resolve.