Environmental Law Program

2012 Elizabeth Sharpe Fellow Raeanne Cobb-Adams ’14

As a 1L, I was fortunate to be the recipient of the summer 2012 Elizabeth Sharpe Fellowship. My interest in Hawai‘i’s environmental issues paved my interest in climate change and led me to the Pacific Island Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC). PICCC is a “self-directed, non-regulatory conservation alliance whose purpose is to assist those who manage native species, island ecosystems, and key cultural resources in adapting their management to climate change for the continuing benefit of the people of the Pacific Islands.”

Climate change has emerged as one of the most significant global issues of our time. From droughts to floods, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report along with an increasing number of other studies have begun to show that climate change will intensify extreme weather events as global temperatures increase. So, society is challenged to deal with increasingly frequent and severe weather events. Additional studies examine past extreme flood and drought events to understand specific human responses. This in turn informs adaptation strategies to best prepare for the forecast of more frequent and extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic climate change.

My summer project was a collaboration between the Pacific Island Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). My research focused on how the effects of a century worth of extreme flood and drought events within the ahupua‘a of He‘eia affected the local community. He‘eia was chosen as the focus of this study because it has many proactive community members and groups who are interested in the impacts of climate change on their community. Several groups within He‘eia, including TNC, already began collecting information within the area.

Further, I focused on whether there was a link between major flood or drought events in He‘eia and changes in the He‘eia community. The presence of links implies community adaptation. I then examined if potential impacts of future flood or drought events would exceed the ability of these communities to cope. My research looked to public media records and oral history interviews of long-time residents to see if major flood or droughts were associated with shifts in agricultural practices or community infrastructure.

–Mahalo Raeanne for sharing with us your summer fellowship experience at the Pacific Island Climate Change Cooperative and The Nature Conservancy. Have a great 2L year and we look forward to what the summer 2013 has in store for you! All the best, ELP