Hawaii coral reefs now protected under $2 million insurance policy

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | December 23, 2022

The Nature Conservancy took out a $2 million insurance policy at the end of November for Hawaii’s coral reefs. The policy provides funding for the repair and restoration of coral reefs after hurricane or storm damage. 

This insurance policy is the first policy for reefs in the United States. The first reef insurance policy in the world was in 2019 after hurricane damage in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Since then, different partners have been working with TNC to build a larger and more impactful insurance program.

“In Hawai‘i, we are rooted in the environment; the health of our coastlines and communities is directly tied to the health of the coral reefs surrounding our islands,” Ulalia Woodside Lee, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy, Hawai‘i and Palmyra said. “By investing in nature, our insurance and finance partners are demonstrating its value as a critical natural, cultural and economic resource.”

Coral reefs are an important natural asset for Hawaii and its people and culture. Reefs provide coastal flood protection for people and property worth more than $836 million and $1.2 billion through tourism. But coral reefs are under serious threat because of climate change, which is heightening and increasing natural disasters like tropical storms and hurricanes.

“Managing natural resources is a costly endeavor, and more investment is always needed,” Brian Nielson, Administrator, Division of Aquatic Resources, State of Hawaiʻi Division of Land and Natural Resources said. “It is a step forward in coral reef conservation and will provide vital funding to repair reefs when it is urgently needed.”

Hawaii CO2 monitor lab interrupted by Mauna Loa eruption

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | December 2, 2022

The Mauna Loa eruption on the morning of Nov. 28 caused a 124-foot tower, which collects carbon dioxide measurements nearly every hour for over 60 years, to stop operating Nov. 28. The tracker is not currently gathering data on rising level heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere after the eruptions’ lava flow shut down power in the lab. 

The Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, erupted on Nov. 28 for the first time since 1984 and oozed lava on the volcano’s summit. Per the U.S. Geological Service, the lava contained within the summit does not impact downslope Hawaiians.

The carbon dioxide measurement lab, known as the Keeling Curve, is proof that human activity is causing climate change. Geoscientist Ralph Keeling, son of Keeling Curve creator Charles David Keeling, said the future carbon dioxide readings from the lab are “very troubling.” 

Charles Keeling originally selected Hawaii for the location of the famous recording system because, with the distance from Hawaii to other major land masses and the mountain’s landscape, there would be no contamination from the photosynthetic activity of plants in the area.

“The observatory will eventually come back, but it’s going to take a long time before it’s really back to normal,” Ralph Keeling said. “There’ll be a gap, and it’s too bad. It’s a really fantastic and important long-term record.”

Hawaii received final coal shipment before shutting down last coal-powered plant

Via Flickr

Grace Smith | August 8, 2022

Hawaii received its final coal shipment on July 27 before shutting down its last coal-powered power plant, pushing the state closer to its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2045

180 MW West Oahu Plant, the single largest electricity source in Oahu, is set to shut down in September, when its 30-year purchase agreement expires.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige went to Twitter to express his excitement for this step in history. “This is a huge step forward in Hawaiʻi’s transition to clean energy. In its time, coal was an important resource for Hawaii and I’d like to thank the workers who have run our last remaining coal plant.”

Like Hawaii, other states are pushing for net-zero emissions or 100 percent carbon-free electricity by midcentury, including Rhode Island, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Oregon, as of 2021. 

Common renewable energy sources including wind, solar power, and biogas can generate energy that will eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other types of air pollution. In addition, the economy will develop, including jobs in manufacturing and installation, like in San Diego, California. As a city dedicated to 100 percent renewable energy, it has formed 56,000 jobs in the industry of clean energy.

Hawaii’s sunscreen ban

Coral reefs provide food and shelter to numerous marine animals. (flickr/USFWS)

Eden DeWald | July 11th, 2018

Hawaii is making a move to protect its coral reefs. A bill banning the distribution or sale of synthetic sunscreens in Hawaii was signed by Governor David Ige earlier this month. The ban will go into affect in January of 2021, and will prevent the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.

There are two main types of sunscreen found in any drugstore—chemical and physical. Physical sunscreen, or mineral sunscreen, often has active ingredients such as titanium and zinc oxide, which reflect or scatter UV rays by forming a protective layer on the skin. Synthetic sunscreens, which often contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, soak into the skin. They protect the wearer by changing the electromagnetic affect of UV rays. Physical sunscreens are not at all affected by the ban and will still be available for retail sale and distribution.

According to a 2015 study, oxybenzone has been found to cause the bleaching of coral reefs, as well as endocrine damage. There have been fewer studies done concerning octinoxate, but similar damaging effects have been associated with this chemical. Approximately 14,000 gallons are estimated to end up in the waters off the coast of Hawaii each year, consequently banning sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate has the potential to remove thousands gallons of coral reef damaging chemicals from the environment each year.

On the Radio- Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano

The United States Geological Survey captures activity in a lava lake created by Kilauea (USGS/flickr)

Eden DeWald| June 4, 2018

This weeks segment discusses the recent surge in activity from the Kilauea Volcano.


Kilauea is currently the world’s most active volcano.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Kilauea Volcano is located on the big island of Hawaii. It takes up 14% of the land and is said to house the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele. The oldest eruptions date back to two-thousand-eight- hundred years go. Kilauea was one of the first volcanoes studied by the Hawaiian Volcano Research Association in 1909.  

On May 3rd, 2018 the volcano erupted again after a five-point-zero earth quake hit the island. Thanks to attentive research and observation the eruption had been suspected and the area was already closed off to the public. The eruption still spewed lava into the residential areas of the Puna district.

The eruption itself did not cause any immediate injury to the locals but hundreds of homes were destroyed. Long lasting effects like smog inhalation and potential mud slides and avalanches will continue to affect the area.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.