In the Pacific, climate change is happening now
With many countries exposed to sea-level rise, dramatic increases in heat, and extreme precipitation forecast, the Pacific region is already affected by the impacts of climate change. Extreme weather events, displacement, food security issues are all faced by a large number of inhabitants in the region. How are Pacific Island Countries and Territories impacted by climate change and what is their climate response on a regional level?
From shifting weather patterns that threaten critical food systems to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic coastal infrastructure, ecosystems and water security and loss of land, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Scientists estimate that the world has, so far, experienced a global temperature increase of 1.1˚C, while the expected temperature rise, – if emissions of greenhouse gases do not decrease - is 3˚C by 2100 if not more.
There is no doubt that climate change will have a major impact on the Pacific region's natural resources, including the availability of water and growing levels of food insecurity. Increasing temperatures could also cause extreme events leading to flash floods, cyclones, and other natural disasters. Over the past decades, PICTs have been committed to implement climate action at national, regional and international scale.
Discover an overview of climate change impacts in the Pacific region
Cyclones, Floods and Droughts
Increases in the frequency of extreme weather and climate events and the severity of their impacts on the natural environment and society have been observed across the Pacific. In the last decade, there were three times more weather-related natural catastrophes, mostly floods and windstorms, in the world than in the 1960s.
In flash floods after heavy rains in Honiara (Solomon Islands) in 2014, more than twenty people lost their lives, thousands were displaced, infrastructure was compromised, and hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed. In 2020, tropical cyclone Harold caused widespread destruction after making landfall as a category 5 storm (with winds of approximately 215km/h) in Vanuatu, before striking the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Tonga. Thirty people died from this tragic event, and people in Vanuatu's most affected province lost their homes.
more than 616,000 new displacements were recorded
Inhabitants of island states in the Pacific are most at risk of being displaced by climate-related disasters. Between 2008 and 2018, more than 616,000 new displacements were recorded in 17 Pacific countries and 97 disaster events triggering displacements were recorded. This situation left thousands of people fleeing the devastating effects of climate change impacts, giving up their livelihoods, dreams, and prospects.
Ocean acidification results from increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the Pacific region, declining ocean pH has caused dramatic changes in aragonite (calcium carbonate) saturation, with implications for calcifying organisms, such as corals, some plankton, and shellfish. Almost 50% of coral island reefs are currently considered threatened, with about 20% rated as highly or very highly threatened.