Increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels and more intense extreme weather events mean the Pacific islands are the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Our populations are expected to be among the first that will need to adapt to climate change or even abandon traditional homelands and relocate.
Climate change is the most significant long-term threat to food security and traditional livelihoods in the region, and adaptation costs will be disproportionately high relative to national incomes. Appropriate policies and strategies need to be put in place now to ensure that communities are equipped with the necessary skills and tools to adapt to these changes in order to minimise the economic, social and cultural costs associated with climate change.
See the poem that brought world leaders to tears at the UN Climate Summit by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands
“We’ve seen waves crashing into our homes and our breadfruit trees wither from salt and droughts. We look at our children and wonder how they will know themselves or their culture should they lose our islands..No one’s becoming a climate change refugee…We are drawing the line here.”
- Kathy Jetnil-Kijinert
Predicted Consequences of Climate Change on Food Security:
- Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns will affect agricultural yields and the type of crops that can be grown.
- Increasingly extreme rainfall patterns may result in production losses due to heat stress, drought conditions and waterlogging, increased flooding of river catchments and soil erosion
- Climate induced changes in rainfall pattern, temperature and wind directions could also result in the introduction and establishment of new pests and disease carrying vectors, especially insects, further threatening production. These diseases can include zoonotic diseases, diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans threatening livestock populations and human health
- Predicted increases in humidity levels, which are supportive of plant fungal diseases, are capable of wiping out crops, as occurred with taro leaf blight in Samoa in the 1990s. These changes in pest and disease status and occurrences can also affect a country’s ability to access export markets or lose existing markets.
- Sea-level rises will increase coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion will contaminate groundwater sources leading to the loss of productive land.
- Atolls countries are in a uniquely vulnerable position to sea-level rises given the limited agricultural land currently available. Increased salt water intrusion will further limit what can be grown in these harsh environments and will exacerbate the existing threats to food security. This is likely to increase reliance on imported processed food
- Managing water resources may become more difficult and costly as a result of changes in rainfall patterns and salt water intrusion.
- Climate change will also contribute to the erosion of genetic diversity in the region and the interaction of agro-biodiversity within food and agriculture ecosystems. Disruption to ecosystem services such as pollination, soil fertilisation and the natural biological control of plant and animal pests will also threaten food production
- These potential consequences pose a dire threat to Pacific Islanders health as reduced production and consumption of local foods will increase already high demand for imported foods which are high in sugar, unhealthy fats, refined carbohydrates and salt increasing the risk of non- communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
What can we do?
Unless we act now, climate change will constitute a major barrier to the achievement of sustainable development and viable food production goals for all Pacific island countries, while threatening the very existence of many of them. Pacific leaders have recognised the urgency of addressing climate change impacts and have prioritised action on climate change under the Pacific Plan in 2008 and 2009.
Mainstreaming climate change adaptation involves incorporation of measures, strategies and information that reduce vulnerability to climate change into policies, strategies, programmes, development planning, institutions and decision-making processes.
The Pacific Island Framework for Adaptation to Climate Change (PIFACC) provides the regional framework for climate change related projects in the Pacific. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) acts as secretariat to the Framework and other CROP and International agencies contribute its implementation.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Pacific Office
The FAO’s Climate Change and Food Security in the Pacific Islands Report provides a comprehensive situational analysis as well as a list of recommended actions for international agenices.
Secretariat of the Pacific Community
The SPCand GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Program (CCCPIR) program aims to strenegthen the capacity of Pacific Island countries to cope with the impacts of climate change. Pilot projects are currently running in Tonga, Vanuatu and Fiji. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Countries specific climate change profiles
These include information on climate change adaption activities, current and future impacts and existing programs and policies around climate change.
Global Climate Change Alliance
This helps support Pacific countries supports to successfully mainstream climate change into their national and sector response strategies, implement national adaptation activities, enhance information exchange and develop regional capacity to respond to climate change.
Policy Brief: Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Islands
Includes Mainstreaming Climate considerations and adaptation strategies, implementing adaptation and mitigation measures, sustainable tourism and climate change and sustainable energy management.
Pacific Gender and Climate Change Toolkit for Practitioners
Gender equality is central to achieving a sustainable and resilient future for Pacific islands.
This toolkit is designed to support climate change practitioners working in national
governments, non-governmental organisations, regional and international organisations,
integrate gender into all aspects of policy, programming and project work. Includes module on Health and Food Security.
A picture Based Toolkit for teaching peoples about climate change and how they can adapt to climate change.
Pou and Miri
A series of childrens books developed by SPC and GIZ to teach children about climate change and how they can help tackle it. Click on book cover to access PDF version.
"We are not dorwning we are fighting!- the Pacific Climate Warriors, learn more here