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Pacific Change

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 10/30/2017 More stories >>

Forum participants
developed a foundational knowledge of the Pacific climate system and
longer-term climate projections.

Forum participants developed a foundational knowledge of the Pacific climate system and longer-term climate projections.

The Pacific islands contribute less that 0.03% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet they suffer some of the greatest threats of climate change. This point was made at the Hawai‘i Extension Climate Forum organized by CTAHR’s Cooperative Extension Service and bringing together other university and community partners. The question addressed by participants was how, as Extension professionals, they could help their clientele in Hawai‘i and other Pacific Islands to deal with this fact.

As Dr. Clay Trauernicht, one of the organizers, points out, Extension specialists’ and agents’ expertise, and their relationships with agricultural producers, natural resource managers, and the general public, put them in a unique position to identify ways their clientele will be impacted by climate-related problems as well as to help find solutions to them. Hawai‘i Extension faculty are already integrating climate information into their programs, such as by implementing precision agriculture to better manage irrigation and fertilizer applications and developing tools to support ranchers responding to drought.

The Forum, spearheaded by Drs. Trauernicht and Patricia Fifita in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, with the support of Extension faculty in the departments of Tropical Plant and Soil Science and Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, also brought together representatives from the US Forest Service, the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative, Pacific-RISA, SeaGrant, and the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center. Extension colleagues at the University of Arizona and the University of California discussed their climate adaptation and communication efforts. Also attending were representatives from Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands, with whom Drs. Trauernicht and Fifita are developing similar forums that will focus on local needs, in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative.

This sea
surface-temperature map shows that Pacific Islands, surrounded by
warmer-than-normal water, are already suffering the effects of climate change..

This sea surface-temperature map shows that Pacific Islands, surrounded by warmer-than-normal water, are already suffering the effects of climate change.

Forum participants developed a foundational knowledge of the Pacific climate system and longer-term climate projections; learned about existing climate-related tools, which will be organized on a CTAHR website to facilitate access; and outlined more ways to integrate climate science and climate change communication into existing Extension programs. They came away with plenty of ideas, from trialing salt-tolerant plant varieties and promoting more resilient planting strategies such as mixed agroforestry to creating online forums or list-serves for community members to ask and answer questions about climate change and disseminating water-conservation tips. After all, if the Pacific Islands are among the most affected by climate change, it only makes sense that Pacific Island Extension is at the forefront of strategies to address it.