Climate Change and Pacific Islands:Indicators and Impacts
The Pacific Islands region is experiencing climate change. Key indicators of the changing
climate include rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rising air and sea temperatures,
rising sea levels and upper-ocean heat content, changing ocean chemistry and increasing
ocean acidity, changing rainfall patterns, decreasing base flow in streams, changing
wind and wave patterns, changing extremes, and changing habitats and species distributions.
Currently, the most vulnerable areas include low islands (atoll islands and other
islands that rise only a few feet above present sea level), nearshore and coastal areas,
and coral reefs. High-elevation (particularly alpine and subalpine) ecosystems are also
vulnerable. The climatic changes are affecting every aspect of life. Freshwater supplies
for natural systems, as well as communities and businesses, are at risk. Food security is
threatened through impacts on both agriculture and fisheries. The built environment is
also at risk from coastal flooding and erosion as sea levels incrementally increase. Loss
of habitat for endangered species such as monk seals, sea turtles, and Laysan ducks is
expected along with increased coral bleaching episodes, expansion of avian malaria to
higher elevations, and changes in the distribution and survival of the areas’ marine biodiversity.
Over the coming decades, impacts are expected to become more widespread
and more severe.