Climate Change and Pacific Island Countries

Since being first settled by humans more than 3000 years ago, the Pacific Islands region has
experienced innumerable changes in climate that have affected livelihoods, something that
underlines the sensitivity of such comparatively small and resource-constrained landmasses
to extraneous change but also helps explain why their inhabitants developed resilience
strategies that remain important today.
 

During the past 100 years, the region has been affected by increased temperatures and sealevel
rise, together with other climate-linked changes including variability in ENSO
periodicity and tropical-cyclone frequency. Owing to the increasing pace of globalisation in
the region during the same period, together with growing populations and demands on island
resources, it is difficult to isolate changes ascribable to climate change; some of the clearest
of these are the increases in coral bleaching, incidences of coastal flooding and shoreline
erosion. Despite knowledge about the causes and effects of climate-related environmental
(and related) changes in the region, supported by considerable financial aid and other external
assistance, the awareness of most Pacific people about climate change and the extent of
community buy-in to appropriate adaptation agendas have been negligible. Many
governments have been unable to effectively disseminate awareness about climate-change
stressors and adaptive solutions; most community-level decision-makers are unable to make
informed decisions about long-term adaptation to observed changes.
 

Warming and sea-level rise are both expected to accelerate within the next 100 years or so,
causing profound changes to environments, societies and development aspirations within the
region. Re-location of people from vulnerable to less-vulnerable locations within the region
is unavoidable and should be planned for sooner rather than later. International partners of
Pacific Island nations should become more aware of the pathways for embedding effective
adaptation in the region. Regional agencies and governments should challenge and re-define
their roles in promoting and disseminating climate-change adaptation strategies within the
region. Awareness-raising should focus on persons of influence in Pacific Island
communities to allow them to make informed and sustainable decisions about the
environments they occupy.
 

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