Hawaii's Waikiki Beach could soon be underwater because of climate change. Lawmakers are fighting to preserve it
If recent climate reports about Hawaii are true, the Democratic Legislator said, after she finishes high school, she may not be in the sunshine on Waikiki Beach.
For six years, Lee has been chairman of the state's Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, he's co-sponsored a bill Hawaii Climate Commission report that Oahu's famed beaches at Waikiki are in danger of being underwater in the next 15-20 years due to rising sea levels.
As waters encroach on the beach, the bill notes that "
If the state loses Waikiki Beach, it would loose the $ 2 billion in annual revenue from tourists who flock to the area. Lee said, and if on ajor hurricane strikes Hawaii, the damage could total $ 40 billion.
The State's Senate and House of Representatives have both passed a measure, HB 1
487, that establishes a "climate protection pilot project" for the Honolulu shoreline. The project would address the threat of "sea level rise, floodwater, storms, and other impacts of a rapidly changing climate."
This week, both houses are looking to reconcile the slightly different versions of the bill and send a finished product to Gov. David Ige's desk.
The cost of the statewide infrastructure upgrades would likely be in the tens of millions, but Lee said that's a "drop in the bucket versus the cost of doing nothing."
Leading the nation in fighting climate change
As a set of islands in the Pacific, and with an economy that relies on beach tourism, Hawaii is uniquely vulnerable to the threat of rising sea levels, higher tides, and stronger storm surges by global climate change.
But lawmakers have been taking action. One of those measures put Hawaii on track to use 100% renewable energy, while another moved to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in ground transportation. Another first-in-the-nation bill, passed in 2018, sought to make the entire state's economy carbon-neutral by 2045.
Hawaii's interagency Climate Commission.
To gird against the rising sea levels, Hawaii wants to upgrade infrastructure in various ways in different parts of the world the state. At Waikiki, that means hardened physical barriers.
Building a consensus and a model for other states
Lee said he and colleagues have shared Hawaii's lessons with other countries with vulnerable coastlines, helping them create the negative effects of climate change.
Because Hawaii has already become a consensus of legislators and the general public that climate change is real and a danger, policymakers were able to move more quickly in 
One pleasant surprise Lee said stemmed from the state's efforts to move to 100% renewable energy. They said they would save $ 5.5 billion.
"You just do not know how much you can save until you investigate," he said said.