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CR 12:137-143 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/cr012137

Vulnerability of island countries in the South Pacific to sea level rise and climate change

Nobuo Mimura*

Center for Water Environment Studies, Ibaraki University, Hitachi, Ibaraki 316-8511, Japan

ABSTRACT: An assessment of the vulnerability to sea level rise and climate change was performed for island countries in the South Pacific (Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, and Tuvalu) under the collaboration of Japanese experts and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme. A combination of experience-based and scientific methods were developed to reveal the overall vulnerability of and possible impacts on the coastal zone sectors. The studies identified the common impacts on and vulnerability of these countries. Inundation and flooding are the common threats to these islands because of their low-lying setting; the problem is exacerbated by the social trends of population growth and migration to main islands, in particular to the capital cities. Other threats include beach erosion, saltwater intrusion, and impacts on the infrastructure and coastal society. For the island countries, the response to sea level rise and climate change focuses on adaptation rather than on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (that is, mitigation). Based on the results of the vulnerability assessment, the concept of and options for adaptation are also discussed.

KEY WORDS: Sea level rise · Vulnerability · Adaptation · Island countries · South Pacific

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