A Review by Evan Suemori of Lucas Black's presentation to the Water Justice Seminar
Lucas Black- Independent Environmental Consultant and Trainer; former senior UN staffer working on global environmental and climate finance issues (2007-2019)
"Environmental Finance and the Green Climate Fund"
Fresh, drinkable water is essential for all life. However, in communities that have been historically marginalized due to race, income, and/or cultural reasons, reliable water sources are much more difficult to come by. Not only this, but these marginalized communities are also adversely impacted by climate change. What do these two have in common? According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “the relationship between climate change mitigation measures and water is a reciprocal one”. Climate change has increased the variability in the water cycle, therefore inducing extreme weather events; decreasing water quality and threatening sustainable development, biodiversity, and the enjoyment of the human rights to safe drinking water, to name a few. Reliable, clean water sources are an essential to adapting to the changes brought on by the climate crisis.
Lucas Black has years of expertise within water quality and climate change issues within marginalized communities. As a former senior UN staffer, he served as a UNDP/GEF Regional Team Leader and Regional Technical Advisor for Energy, Infrastructure, and Technology (EITT) within the Arab States. In this position, he provided technical, advisory, and management support in areas regarding renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, low-carbon infrastructure, and sustainable forestry and land management. He currently works as an independent environmental consultant and trainer.
I am from Hawaii, and we have the luxury of having some of the best quality drinking water around. This is mainly due to an abundance of rainwater that is naturally filtered through underground porous volcanic rock for about 25 years before it reaches aquifers. This results in very little to no added treatment of the water before reaching our taps. However, as the population in Hawaii has increased, we have seen decline in our water accessibility from these aquifers. Not only this, but Hawaii has recently been adversely impacted by climate change, especially through sea-level rise. Research conducted by the University of Hawaii has indicated that sea level may rise approximately 1 foot by mid-century and 2.5 to 6.2 feet by the end of the century. Although this may not sound like much, just a 1-foot increase has the capability of flooding much of Downtown Honolulu.
In order to combat climate change, we need reliable, and clean water sources. However, the consistent decrease in water availability from aquifers due to increased population, impacts our ability to adjust. To prepare for the future, Hawaii needs to better inform the public of the consequences of people’s decisions, and the importance of water security in connection to climate change. If we wait too long, we will find ourselves in a position of irreversible climate change, without the water resources to adapt.
Evan Suemori is a first-year graduate student in the Professional Science Master’s Program in the Environmental Science and Management Department. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Portland in 2019 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Sustainability. His master’s project involves examining the storm water green infrastructure at PSU and creating a comprehensive evaluation of the implementation, costs, benefits, and function of current and future facility management.