Commentary: Deadly Hawaii fires show climate change’s ugly reach


Neither of those particular weather events has yet been tied directly to climate change. But we do know warmer water makes hurricanes more intense; Dora passed Hawaii as a Category 4, its high winds spreading havoc on land despite being hundreds of miles out to sea.

And a relentlessly heating planet has made Hawaii drier; 90 per cent of the state gets less rain than it did 100 years ago. When the fires began, most of the state’s islands were abnormally dry, and half of Maui was experiencing moderate to severe drought.

Parched years have hurt Hawaiian farmers and cattle ranchers and sparked resentment toward tourists, who locals say haven’t been asked to sacrifice as much to conserve water. When it does rain in Hawaii, it increasingly falls in torrential deluges that lead to floods and landslides, like the “rain bomb” that hit Kauai in April 2018, dropping a mind-blowing 1,270mm of rain in 24 hours.

California is more strongly identified with droughts, floods and wildfires than Hawaii. Its timeline in the Bloomberg Businessweek graphic is much, much uglier than Hawaii’s.

But the tropical island chain has suffered too, only more quietly. And a steadily warming planet makes such suffering ever more likely.

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