Honolulu’s resilience journey
Located on the most isolated archipelago in the world, Honolulu faces a host of environmental challenges related to weather change, including hurricanes and typhoons, tsunamis, rainfall flooding, and rising sea levels. Honolulu’s Located on the most isolated archipelago in the world, Honolulu faces a host of environmental challenges related to weather change, including hurricanes and typhoons, tsunamis, rainfall flooding, and rising sea levels.
Honolulu’s island location means that its critical urban infrastructure is completely independent, and it cannot rely on neighboring grids for support in times of need. A strong hurricane could damage sea and air ports, creating food crises in a city that imports almost all of its commodities, and could devastate the fragile local economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism.
A strong evacuation plan and public outreach programs have already helped to minimize the impacts of tsunamis, and the city is currently updating its disaster mitigation plans to account for rising sea levels and other shocks.
Honolulu is also looking to address increased homelessness, compounded by the location of informal settlements along the coast, where inhabitants are more vulnerable to extreme climate events.
Meet the Chief Resilience Officer
CHIEF RESILIENCE OFFICER
AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Since January 2021, Matthew Gonser serves as the City and County of Honolulu Chief Resilience Officer and Executive Director of the City’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. He joined the City and the Resilience Office in October 2017 and previously served as Coastal and Water Program Manager. Prior to joining the office he served for nearly six years as the Community Planning and Design Extension Agent with the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program.
With the Resilience Office Matt led the City’s development of the Ola: O‘ahu Resilience Strategy, which was adopted as a guiding policy document by the City Council in 2019. Matthew serves as an advisory council member for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program and as an Executive Committee member of the Hawai‘i Chapter of the American Planning Association.
Matthew holds a BS in Natural Resources from Cornell University, and holds masters in both Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture, respectively, also from Cornell..