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Hawaii Is A Global Leader In Studying Solutions To Climate Change – Honolulu Civil Beat

August was a historic month for our nation and world, as the United States appears to be finally taking substantial and collective action on the issue of climate change.

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With Congress’ recent Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Joe Biden, nearly $370 billion in federal funding and resources have been earmarked for clean energy and climate change mitigation initiatives. This is an unprecedented level of support from the U.S. federal government to wean us off our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to more sustainable energy sources.

While it’s theoretically possible to achieve these goals, only a concerted commitment by the nations that produce the greatest greenhouse gas emissions will help stave off the world’s climate crisis. While climate change is a global concern, the impacts of global warming and rising sea levels significantly affect Hawaii and Pacific island nations and territories.

Ocean level rising is not only leading to shoreline erosion of our Hawaii beaches. Elsewhere in the Pacific, rising sea levels are swallowing up low-lying atoll nations, with salt water intrusion also impacting fresh water supplies, sanitation and food production in some places. Climate change, coastal runoff pollution from the built environment and nutrient pollution are also damaging our coral reef ecosystems and harming the marine life that inhabits them.

This urgency has propelled Hawaii to become a global leader in studying climate change and innovating solutions that range from Indigenous knowledge to new technologies. Hawaii has been an amazing leader in trying to resolve this issue, with significant work and studies being done by scientists, communities and agencies statewide.

At Chaminade, our environmental programs have been training Pacific climate leaders for over two decades. Two new efforts, our United Nations Sustainability Center based here in Hawaii and a new $10 million National Science Foundation grant program, affirm our continuing commitment to the future of our shared home. Earlier last month, we received a groundbreaking $10 million, five-year grant award from the National Science Foundation to create new leadership pathways into data science careers for students and working professionals across Hawaii and the Pacific region, centering the application of data analytics to achieve sustainability.

At Rocky Point on Oahu's North Shore a house sits on the beach after recently collapsing and sliding off the eroded sandy bluff where it was built, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
A house sits on the beach on the North Shore after recently collapsing and sliding off the eroded sandy bluff where it was built. Such incidents are increasing the urgency to act against climate change. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022

With the help of this transformative funding, we will launch a new Alliance Supporting Pacific Impact through Computational Excellence (ALL-SPICE) in partnership with the university’s new United Nations sustainability center, called CIFAL Honolulu, and our Data Science program.

The NSF Alliance consortium includes the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the University of Hawaii, East-West Center and a network of Pacific universities and colleges. ALL-SPICE will focus on the application of data analytics to solve critical sustainability issues and promote sustainable development across the Pacific region. The program will also focus on workforce development, providing opportunities for building skills in data science to meet employer needs in this high-demand field.

We’ll also continue to work to address some of the sustainable development challenges impacting Hawaii and Pacific Island nations through CIFAL. The Chaminade training center will work with U.N. experts and local stakeholders to develop targeted education and training around key U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, including climate action, advocating for the oceans, food and energy sustainability, reducing poverty, ensuring clean water, and tending to human health and well-being.

Our focus is on partnering with the private sector and community to develop and implement real solutions, and that is where data science is invaluable. This grant is part of a collective and exciting effort to meet a pivotal moment in our history by expanding opportunities to a new generation of change-makers.

So yes, the month of August has been a pivotal one for all of us in dealing with climate change, with positive progress being made internationally and locally. Hopefully, when we look back at this moment, we can say that our society took a major step forward in saving our planet. Not just for our sake, but for future generations to come.

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