Climate Adaptation and Resilience Costs in the Pacific Islands and Atolls

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“This new report quantifies the potential costs of climate adaptation for Pacific Island countries and targets ways in which decision-makers can effectively manage vulnerability and build resilience to reduce losses, protect livelihoods and save lives,” said Denis Jordy, Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank.

The World Bank published the report, “Pacific Possible: Climate and Disaster Resilience” in July 2016, which looked into the climate adaptation costs for Pacific island countries. The research aims to assists decision-makers to formulate effective ways to manage vulnerability to climate change through building resilience, either by building new structures or by integrating resilience into existing structures thereby reducing the impacts of extreme weather conditions and reducing loss, protect livelihood, and safe communities.

The report emphasises on making coastlines more resilient to climate change. The cost is projected to be between 1-13 per cent of the island’s GDP.  Atoll island states like Kiribati and Marshall Islands present a much steeper cost.

The report recognizes the importance of integrating climate adaptation into infrastructure development mitigating the impacts of climate change on infrastructure for many years to come.

Although climate adaptation costs are expensive and will increase expenditure between 2-20 per cent across the Pacific Island states by 2040, these mitigation costs, however, will by far reduce economic losses when natural calamities strike.

The geography of the Pacific Islands is unique in such a way that it is far from major markets, having a small population that is scattered among the islands in great distances. Thus, they are facing unique challenges and constraints.

The paper also highlights the region’s major challenges in the next 25 years requiring urgent action:

  • The current risks of climate change
  • Managing these risks and disasters
  • Adaptation strategies or the lack thereof
  • The case of Atoll islands

Vulnerability to Natural Disasters

The Pacific is extremely exposed to cyclones, droughts, storm surges, electrical storms, tsunami, among many others, and climate change will make things worse for them.

The melting ice sheet and increasing ocean temperature are causing sea level to rise which triggers coastal erosion, salt-water intrusion, and intensifying storm surges. These events pose a threat to the region’s agriculture, fisheries, water resources, health, ecosystems, and the entire community.

The Atoll islands are most vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surge. The bill of managing sea-level rise would be very steep. In Kiribati, the cost is projected between $17-54 million towards the 2040s or between 4 to 17 per cent of their GDP.

Resilience Strategies

Despite the huge challenges that the Pacific Islands are facing, there is an opportunity to design resilience strategies.

  • Selecting strategies that offer benefits even in the absence of climate change. This way there is no regret if things do not happen as expected.
  • Flexible and reversible options such as early warning systems, or easy to retrofit structures.
  • Invest in adding value to new investments, for example, bigger capacity drainage systems for urban roads.
  • Promoting policies on behaviour change, awareness-building, and long-term investments planning
  • Constructing cheaper with shorter lifetime houses that are easy to replace.

This climate and disaster resilience paper recommends that climate adaptation and mitigation strategies should be carefully considered and in accordance with the local context.  Trade-offs also need to be identified with regards to cost, for example, the cost of desalination, which would use a lot of energy versus the use of solar power, which is abundant in the region, and use of climate-resistant crops should also be considered.

This paper offers a lot of information on climate adaptation efforts on the Pacific Islands. It also presents a holistic picture of the present and future events if extreme weather conditions continue to worsen. It discusses the effects on families, women, their agriculture and food supply, and if not mitigated will further compound poverty in the islands.

So, we would like to encourage you to read the full Climate and Disaster Resilience research paper for more details.



PHOTO CREDIT: South Tarawa – By Photo taken by Government of Kiribati employee in the course of their work – Government of Kiribati, CC BY 3.0, Link


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