Date of Graduation

Spring 5-20-2021

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Stephanie A. Siehr


Island coastal communities are increasingly vulnerable to climate change impacts, including storms, flooding, and sea-level rise. In 2017, the state of Hawaiʻi saw an unprecedented number of minor flood events due to a combination of higher mean sea levels and seasonal tidal patterns. This research assessed the the climate resilience and adaptation initiatives in Hawaiʻi’s Resilience plans as they address coastal hazards. This research examined the robustness of resilience strategies to flooding due to climate change. This report focused on a community’s resilience to the physical impacts of climate change specifically on flood events and other environmental hazards that contribute to flooding such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and sea-level rise. The main research questions of this study is: How robust are climate resilience strategies being developed by coastal communities in Hawaiʻi? The research focuses on the three Hawaiian Islands most vulnerable to coastal climate impacts: Kauaʻi, Maui, and Oʻahu. Utilizing the Arup City Resilience framework, the Equity by Design framework, and a Flood Management framework, this research conducted a comparative Case Study Analysis and Gap Analysis of the islands’ Resilience Plans. Currently the three plans meet 100% of the flood management guidelines. However, gaps were identified in the Arup City Resilience and Equity by Design guidelines. Therefore, the recommendations in this report focus on addressing the resilience and equity gaps in the plans. I created examples of measures or approaches that could increase inclusivity and equity for communities in Hawaiʻi that are increasingly threatened by the effects of anthropogenic climate change. One example to address the gap on ‘Minimal Human Vulnerability’ is to increase inclusivity and include equitable policies by coordinating pre-disaster emergency plans. This emergency plan can be formed by referencing the State of Hawaiʻi Emergency Operations Plan which established the framework the state will use to organize its emergency management activities and can be adapted for counties to use as well. It is important to note that while the climate resilience plans for these three communities are relatively new, some of the actions related to increasing overall resiliency within the community have been ongoing within County departments, community organizations, and also state and federal agencies. Through the creation of the climate resilience plans, the county is now specifically identifying, partnering, and referencing relevant actions by other agencies and organizations and bringing attention to these efforts.