Maui beach erosion is direct impact of sea level rise, global warming, experts say

Dustin Dorsey Image
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Maui beach erosion is direct impact of sea level rise: Expert
Climate experts say the erosion at Ka'anapali Beach in Maui is a direct impact of sea level rise and global warming - a concern also for the Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Dramatic video captured by a drone shows the incredible damage erosion is causing alongside one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island of Maui.

The video shows fallen palm trees and a sidewalk crumbling into the ocean as the waves crash against the shoreline along Ka'anapali Beach in West Maui.

Climate experts say this is a direct impact of sea level rise and global warming.

San Jose resident Steve Sordello and his wife shared with us about how it looks outside of their Ka'anapali Ali hotel.

"We're literally sitting at the pool on lounge chairs watching palm trees fall into the ocean," Sordello said. "Then walking over to the palm trees towards the beach, we're seeing the sidewalk disappearing more and more each day. It's been a crazy week here."

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Maui native Tiare Lawrence captured the drone video showing toppled palm trees as the waves nearly crash on to the Ka'anapali Ali Hotel.

The walkway connecting the resorts on West Maui is impassable.

"Every year that goes by, it gets worse and worse and worse," Lawrence said.

Lawrence blames the island's tourism industry and climate change for the shorelines breaking down.

"It makes me sad for future generations that the state continues to do these temporary fixes that do more harm than good," Lawrence said. "We've lost 13 miles of shoreline over the last 30 years. And with sea level rise, island nations around the world are feeling the impacts of climate change."

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San Jose State Geologist Dr. Kimberly Blisniuk agrees and says this rise is impacting even Bay Area residents who've never visited Hawaii.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the sea level will increase 20 centimeters by 2050. This will make waves crash higher and erode beaches up to 15 yards, including here in the Bay Area.

Dr. Blisniuk says our only option is to move buildings back.

"If we stay on the shoreline, the shoreline will be eroded and if you build on it, whether you have a road, a lighthouse or a house, when the land underneath your structure is eroding away, there's nothing you can do."

Dr. Blisniuk says the images are reminders of the inevitability of climate change.

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