For many countries the effects of climate change may not yet be obvious, but for the people in the Pacific Islands the threat is very real.
“There are still some who believe that climate change is a distant threat but for us it is a present threat. It’s happening now and our people are being affected now,” said the Hon. Tessie Eria Lambourne, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration for the Government of Kiribati during a recent discussion at the World Bank.
Kautuna Kaitara, Program Manager of the Kiribati Adaptation Program, is among those who have seen first-hand the impacts of climate change in the Pacific Islands. “Coastal areas are eroded, but extremely eroded in some areas which took away the land with permanent housing built on them, requiring relocations of the communities living there,” said Kautuna.
Pacific Islands countries among most vulnerable to climate change and natural hazards
The geographic conditions of the Pacific Islands – small, low lying islands – make them highly vulnerable to effects of climate change such as increasing sea level rise and the various impacts it brings.
More risks arise from the region’s high exposure to natural hazards. About 41 tropical cyclones occur each year in the region, making it the most damaging peril in terms of economic loss while earthquakes are close behind.
Natural disasters cause the Pacific Islands countries to lose 2 percent of their GDP annually. Eight of these countries are among the top 20 in the world with the highest loss of GDP from natural disasters. Vulnerability is worsened by poor development planning and the countries’ limited ability to respond and manage the risks.
A recent World Bank report highlighted the risk that, without global action, the world could potentially be 4°C warmer by the end of the century, which would be catastrophic for Pacific Islanders.