The greenies' tales about Hawaii's vanishing beaches miss one important fact

The greenies have a new battle in the "war on climate change."  They want to rid the world of sea walls.  Sea walls are barriers that property owners put on the waterside of the beach to protect their property from encroaching waves.  According to the environmentalists, though, sea walls exacerbate the way anthropogenic climate change and the resulting rise of the sea destroy beachfront property.  I'm sure this a fine theory, except for the part about anthropogenic climate change causing the sea to rise.

In fact, as this article from Watts Up With That explains with tremendous clarity, any sea level rise is minimal (according to NOAA, around 1.7 mm per year).  Instead, what's often happening is that the land is sinking.  Sinking land happens not because of climate change.  It happens because the Earth's crust is a dynamic system that is constantly on the move.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in Hawaii.  In correspondence with me, Thomas Whysmuller, a meteorologist with an impressive résumé, explained just how dynamic Hawaii is.  Most of us know that Hawaii was created because of volcanic activity.  What many fewer of us know is that, as the Earth's crust shifts, Hawaii is moving away from those volcanoes and essentially beginning to sink back into the earth:

The part of the Pacific Plate upon which the Hawaiian Islands are situated, is slowly moving toward the Northwest.

Each of the islands has passed over a volcanic plume, responsible for forming each Island, in turn, as that island passed over the plume.  Oahu, with its dormant Diamond Head volcano, is the next to last one to do so.  The big Island, Hawaii, is now over the plume and has land building eruptions about once every three years.

Once an island leaves the plume and slides back onto the moving plate, it begins to subside, and continues to do so until it slides back into the ocean.  Look at the diminishing island size progression as you move to the northwest!!!

Of course, as an island begins to sink, it takes its beach with it, so there should be no surprise that a sea wall will be needed to prevent property erosion by oceanic wave action.

On Waikiki Beach, you can walk out almost 1/4 quarter mile on soft sand, in shallow water that gradually deepens.  This actually allows for long distance surfboard runs, for which the beach has become famous!  120,000 years ago, that 1/4 mile was all above water!!!

There is a 130 meter difference in sea-levels between the peak of an ice age, and its abatement when the oceans fill up again with melted land based glacial water. 

So, in fact, going back from about 2,000 years ago till 120,000 ago, Waikiki Beach was totally above water for the entire duration.

Why does this matter?  It matters because of a slickly produced piece in Pro Publica.  ProPublica bills itself as "a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power."  In this case, the power to which it claims to be telling the truth is the Hawaiian government, which it accuses of letting wealthy people (including friends of Obama) get away with building up sea walls.

But while the article is definitely an attack against these sea walls, read just a few paragraphs in, and you'll discover the real culprit: rising seas, with the unspoken tag being "because of climate change":

Hawaii's beaches are owned by the public, and the government is required to preserve them. So years ago, officials adopted a "no tolerance" policy toward new seawalls, which scientists say are the primary cause of coastal erosion.

But over the past two decades, oceanfront property owners across the state have used an array of loopholes in state and county laws to get around that policy, armoring their own properties at the expense of the environment and public shoreline access.


Officials defend their actions, saying that forcing property owners to comply with anti-armoring laws would cause them too much hardship, particularly along coastlines that already have lots of seawalls.

Over time, though, waves hitting the barriers pull the sand away from the shore and carry it out to sea. As a result, the government approvals have fueled beach loss and perpetuated the redevelopment of private properties along treasured and environmentally sensitive coastlines — all at a time when scientists have been warning of the dire need to push development inland.

I don't have an opinion about sea walls.  I do have an opinion about connected, rich people buying oceanfront property on sinking islands even as they try to sell us on the idea that an ocean rise clocked at less than 2 mm per year is what really matters — and that we should give up fossil fuel to save their beaches.

Image: Beach in Hawaii by Andrea Widburg.

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