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O'ahu and the Effects of Climate Change

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Project Overview

Climate change is already affecting people all around the world. To understand the
depth and complexity of this issue, our team aimed to draw out the causes and implications of climate change on the island of Oahu, Hawaii using systems design mapping. For our map, we chose to use the flower motif not only to represent O'ahu's natural beauty but also to indicate how delicate the climate situation has become.

Accepted and exhibited at the Relating Systems and Design Symposium (2021) hosted by Delift University of Technology in the Netherlands


  • Communicate the interactions between different stakeholders to convey the complexities of the subject

  • Identify leverage point solutions that mitigate multiple issues 

  • Pin point feedback loops that exacerbate climate change

4 weeks,
Fall 2021

Figma, Miro


Systems thinking, Research, Information visualization, Problem solving

Jessica Liu, Susan Ni
GianCarlo Seixas

Research and development of carbon sink feedback loop, green transportation intervention, and transportation sector

Final Systems Map



Research Steps

  1. To start the process, we identified what information we already know about climate change in O'ahu and connected relationships between subjects.

  2. Then we moved onto conducting further investigations into the subjects we recognized by looking through governmental emissions, travel, and sustainability reports as well as science research papers.

Key Research Points
O'ahu's dependency on tourism and jet fuel for their economy complicates their relationship with the environment and sustainability. Visitors come to Hawaii for the natural environment, but carbon emissions and other ecological issues that stem from tourism creates a cycle of conflict or a feedback loop.

Mapping Prior Knowledge and Further Research

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0.1 Mess Map

We compiled our current information about climate change in O'ahu into the square bubbles on this mess map, and each topic was categorized into differing sections (social, technology, economic, ecological, political, and values), causes and effects of climate change were identified as well as whether each effect was long term or short term. 


0.2 Transition Graphs

On the far right, a mapping of these solutions takes into account the present state, the transition period, and a future where the solution is fully implemented. Solutions to complex problems cannot be implemented immediately without whiplash to the system, so considering a slow ease and the transition period is crucial.

0.3 Intervention Points

After understanding the problem space, we thought of possible intervention points that could cascade to solve multiple issues. We then did more research on each intervention to understand the feasibility of the solution and the possible effects it would create.

I researched about reducing jet fuel consumption, which is O'ahu's main source of GHG emissions, and found that there are developments of clean jet fuel in Hawaii that will be available on the market in the future. With this knowledge, pressuring the government to require cleaner fuel would greatly decrease the emissions Hawaii produces and stop the feedback loop of eventual collapse between Hawaii's environment that entices tourists and the emissions tourists produce.

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Ecology of Interventions (Solutions development system)

1. Educational Nature Programs: Implementation of sustainability programs from K-12 to educate youth and encourage them make environmentally conscious decisions as adults.

2. Electric Power Grid: Provide more EV charging stations around the city for electric vehicles to support transition to fossil fuel free transportation.

3. Modes of Green Transportation: Improve methods of green transportation such as supporting sidewalk infrastructure and shade providing landscapes to encourage biking and walking.

4. Tree Planting Programs: Implement programs that motivate youth to participate in tree planting programs to offset carbon emissions.

Key point: Each solution builds off of each other creating an ecology of interventions. The tree planting program provides shade for residents to walk or bike and they are a hands on experience of the educational nature programs that encourage youth to be more sustainable. This may cause them to use electric vehicles and green methods of transportation in the future.

Map Concept Development

We developed three main ideas for the map with differing information layouts. Each kept the same components in arrangements that enhance different sections:

  • Intervention/Leverage Points

  • GHG Inventory

  • Information Categories (Political, Economic, Environment, Social, Technical)

My contribution was the shell layout that allowed for the information categories to be closely grouped together for more neat and easy to understand connections and for separation of causes and effects using the two halves of the shell. The downsides of this layout were that some of the causes and effects built off of each other and formed a feedback loop, so it would be difficult to demonstrate this with information in different nodes.


We ultimately went with the flower idea that kept all the information about each category contained to demonstrate these feedback loops.

Map Concept Development

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Map Draft 1

We developed three main ideas for the map with differing information layouts. Each kept the same components in arrangements that enhance different sections:

  • Intervention/Leverage Points

  • GHG Inventory

  • Information Categories (Political, Economic, Environment, Social, Technical)

Draft 1

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Example Flower Map Layout 1.png

Draft 2


Final Map

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