$6.36M supports Pacific climate change resilience

A program supporting communities in the Pacific region to become more resilient to the effects of climate change received a five-year, $6.36 million research grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Water Resources Research Center will work with the East-West Center, Arizona State University (ASU) and other stakeholders to kickoff the next phase of NOAA’s Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (Pacific RISA) program. Known as “Pacific RISA IV: Building Equitable and Just Climate Solutions for Pacific Island Resilience to Compound Disasters and Extreme Events,” this phase will address pressing regional and community-specific climate challenges in Hawaiʻi and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI), encompassing the Territories of Guam and American Sāmoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Freely Associated States of the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Thomas Giambelluca, UH Water Resources Research Center director and Department of Geography and Environment professor, said, “With all the recent news of catastrophic extreme weather globally, nationally and here in Hawaiʻi, the Pacific RISA project’s focus on climate-change-driven extreme weather events in Hawaiʻi and the USAPI is both timely and critically important to decision makers and communities in the region. The University of Hawaiʻi has a major responsibility, as the research center for the Pacific, to bring scientific expertise to bear on critical issues surrounding climate change adaptation.”

Researchers with the project have collaborated with natural resource managers, policymakers, local and national governments, and non-profit organizations to gather data, as well as advocate for regional climate needs at the national and international levels. They will now address the core question of Pacific RISA Phase IV: How can we support and develop sustainable, equitable, and just climate solutions that increase Pacific Island resilience to compound disasters and extreme events?

The USAPI is made up of more than 300,000 square miles of land and millions of square miles
of ocean, making the area culturally, geographically and economically diverse. There are a variety of factors that affect how individuals, communities and organizations prepare for and recover from what Pacific RISA researchers call compound events, which are seemingly isolated events that act in combination with one another to produce more serious negative consequences.

To work on building community resilience to these compound events, the Pacific RISA
Phase IV will host peer-to-peer exchanges among project participants in Hawaiʻi, the USAPI and the national RISA network that will help scale lessons learned and solutions discovered to the national level. This phase of the project will strive to maintain and expand Pacific RISA’s role as a source of use-inspired research and a trusted climate boundary organization.

More about Pacific RISA

Pacific RISA is led by a team based at ASU, in partnership with East-West Center and with researchers from UH’s Water Resources Research Center, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental ManagementSea Level Center and William S. Richardson School of Law.

This public impact research is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Building a Sustainable and Resilient Campus Environment: Within the Global Sustainability and Climate Resilience Movement (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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