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Scientists say rising sea will pose threat to Hawaii by 2100

A group of scientists say the state of Hawaii could lose $19 billion worth of land and structures, and millions more in infrastructure by 2100 because of rising sea levels.

The upcoming Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Report from scientists and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources found that the sea level is currently on the rise, West Hawaii Today reported. About 20,700 Hawaii residents will be displaced by 2100 and 550 cultural sites will be lost, according to their most recent scientific modeling and economic projections.

“The sea level is rising as we speak,” said Sam Lemmo, administrator of department’s Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands. “We’re having to really dance on our feet and adapt to the rapidly changing conditions around us.”

The rising sea level is credited to thermal expansion — a rise in global average temperature which causes the ocean to expand and occupy more volume — melting glaciers and ice caps and melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, said Bradley Romine, a coastal management specialist with the Sea Grant Program at the University of Hawaii.

Scientists predict that Big Island’s unique coastline will minimize the impact of the rising waters. The island will lose $430 million worth of land and structures and 1,900 residents will be displaced by 2100 when the sea level is expected to rise by 3.2 feet, according to their projections.

The report suggests continued research and developing plans and strategies to save beaches and cultural resources, said Catherine Courtney, a marine environmental scientist at consultant Tetra Tech.

“We need to do a better job of how to use our land. We need much more collaboration within our government,” she said.

The report will be published at the end of the year.

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