CR 40:211-231 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr00806

Responding to the challenges of climate change in the Pacific Islands: management and technological imperatives

Patrick D. Nunn*

Professor of Oceanic Geoscience, Division of Geography, Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji Islands

ABSTRACT: Pacific Island nations face similar challenges from climate change to those faced by other developing nations, yet these are exacerbated by the comparative smallness, remoteness, and archipelagic character of many of the islands. Proposed solutions to the effects of climate change in the Pacific Islands have often been uncritically imposed from elsewhere and have often proved unsuited to both their environmental and cultural contexts. Effective solutions to challenges of climate change in the Pacific Islands should acknowledge their unique environmental characteristics, particularly their high insularity (coastal length to land area) ratios, their topographic and geological diversity, and the raw materials available to support adaptation. It is important for policy makers to understand the cultural influences that have helped shape current environmental decision making, and the ways in which adaptations to climate change can be sustained. The efficacy of donor preferences for aid funding of policy development (top-down) rather than empowering community-level decision-makers (bottom-up) is questionable. Pacific Island governments are focused on economic growth, with little tangible investment in non-profit environmental sustainability. In the future they should take on ownership of the climate-change adaptation process to a greater degree than they do at present, with external assistance brought in only for special cases and for the trialling of novel solutions, rather than for routine adaptation. Globally, there should be less emphasis on sea-level rise as the principal challenge posed by climate change to Pacific Island nations and a better appreciation of the other challenges, particularly inundation and salinization of economically critical lowland, as well as coral-reef degradation.


KEY WORDS: Climate change · Pacific Islands · Environmental management · Technology · Adaptation · Sea-level rise


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Cite this article as: Nunn PD (2009) Responding to the challenges of climate change in the Pacific Islands: management and technological imperatives. Clim Res 40:211-231. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr00806

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