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Hawaii News

UH professor honored by EPA for work on island climate policy

It was Charles "Chip" Fletcher’s name on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency award, but Fletcher was not thinking of himself when accepting it.

"I thanked all the environmental heroes of Hawaii," Fletcher said shortly after receiving the recognition Thursday in Los Angeles. "There are activists, community leaders, scientists, agency staff, agency leaders throughout Hawaii, all who recognize that climate change is real, it’s happening and it’s beyond prime for us to begin the discussion on how to deal with it."

The EPA honored Fletcher, a geologist and professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, as one of 12 recipients of its annual Environmental Award in the Pacific Southwest region.

Fletcher was recognized for his part in creating the university’s Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy at the law school. The center coordinates research to develop policy recommendations for climate change adaptation and resiliency.

"ICAP is a four-legged stool," Fletcher said. "The four legs are law, science, urban and regional planning, and indigenous island communities."

The awards ceremony was held Thursday on the EPA’s 40th anniversary. Each year, the agency encourages citizens to nominate people or organizations.

"From Arizona to California to Samoa, this year’s winners fight to protect our air, water and land in the face of daily environmental challenges," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator. "These innovative green heroes prove that it is possible to make a difference and improve our environment, regardless of whether they are elected officials, business leaders or community activists."

The EPA said Fletcher "excels at communicating his findings to policymakers and the public."

Brian Taylor, dean of the UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, said one of Fletcher’s great assets is his connection with the community.

"Sometimes he’s called Mr. Beach," Taylor said. "The community at large knows him in various roles."

Fletcher was previously chairman of the UH Department of Geology and Geophysics. He also led the research team that created aerial maps depicting downtown Honolulu, Waikiki and Kalaeloa as they would look with a 1-meter rise in sea level.

Fletcher’s maps showed the Ala Wai Boat Harbor, Hilton Hawaiian Village Lagoon and most of the Ala Wai Golf Course submerged.

"These are all climate change realities that island communities are going to have to face firsthand, and it’s already happening," Fletcher said.

Fletcher got a handshake from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was also recognized for his work, including the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act and a public-private partnership to build a hydrogen highway in California to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Other recipients Thursday included Rep. Taotasi Soliai, American Samoa House of Representatives; Fresno, Calif., Mayor Ashley Swearengin; the City of Hermosa Beach, Calif.; and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.


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