Climate Change and Pacific Islands:Indicators and Impacts

The Pacific Islands region is experiencing climate change. Key indicators of the changingclimate include rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rising air and sea temperatures,rising sea levels and upper-ocean heat content, changing ocean chemistry and increasingocean acidity, changing rainfall patterns, decreasing base flow in streams, changingwind and wave patterns, changing extremes, and changing habitats and species distributions.Currently, the most vulnerable areas include low islands (atoll islands and otherislands that rise only a few feet above present sea level), nearshore and coastal areas,and coral reefs. High-elevation (particularly alpine and subalpine) ecosystems are alsovulnerable. The climatic changes are affecting every aspect of life. Freshwater suppliesfor natural systems, as well as communities and businesses, are at risk. Food security isthreatened through impacts on both agriculture and fisheries. The built environment isalso at risk from coastal flooding and erosion as sea levels incrementally increase. Lossof habitat for endangered species such as monk seals, sea turtles, and Laysan ducks isexpected along with increased coral bleaching episodes, expansion of avian malaria tohigher elevations, and changes in the distribution and survival of the areas’ marine biodiversity.Over the coming decades, impacts are expected to become more widespreadand more severe. 

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