Stories From The Field

Assessing Climate Change and Coastal Hazards in Kauai

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The island of Kauai in Hawaii is vulnerable to a variety of coastal hazards, including inundation, erosion, hurricanes, and tsunamis. Rising sea levels are expected to exacerbate these hazards over time. The current Kauai general plan, which provides land use policy and development regulation guidance, does not identify climate change and sea level rise as primary threats to existing coastal hazards.


To better address the local impacts of sea level rise and climate change, the County of Kauai Planning Department partnered with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program to conduct the Kauai Climate Change and Coastal Hazard Assessment. The assessment’s first goal was improving Kauai’s understanding and use of coastal hazard information and planning tools to increase community resilience and preparedness. Data from NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer provided cornerstone information for the assessment. The data were used to illustrate critical information and their importance to planning efforts, and identify existing gaps in scientific data and planning information. The compiled, science-based coastal and climate hazard information was then used to inform the Kauai general plan update. In addition, the Sea Level Rise Viewer also helped participants gain insight into areas of concentrated socioeconomic vulnerability and high exposure to sea level rise impacts.


This effort identified planning and policy options for the Kauai general plan and featured insights on increasing resilience and preparedness for this island. Recommendations pointed to the need for more detailed risk and vulnerability assessments for select areas, as well as policy and planning actions that could be undertaken immediately, regardless of the identified gaps in science and planning information.


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