Climate Change and the Pacific Islands: Indicators and Impacts

The Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) produced this report on climate change impacts, indicators, and adaptive capacity of Hawai‘i and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands, with the support of nearly 100 scientific experts and practitioners.  The report was a regional contribution integrated into the Third National Climate Assessment

There are over 2,000 islands in the Hawaiian archipelago and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands region. This report focuses on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands, Hawai‘i and the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and American S?moa.

The key indicators of climate change in the region are detailed including the following focal impacts: increased temperatures, decreased rainfall, decreased stream flow and water supply, sea level rise, more frequent and prolonged drought, redistributions of habitats and species, rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification.

The report describes the adaptive capacity of Pacific Island communities to climate impacts on:

  • freshwater availability and quality
  • regional and community economies
  • urbanization, transportation, and infrastructure vulnerabilities
  • ecosystem services
  • ocean resource sustainability and coastal zone management
  • cultural resources

The vulnerability of all Pacific Islands to climate impacts is increased overall by the common proximity of communities and major infrastructure to the ocean. According to the report, most international airports are sited on or within a few miles of the coast, while primary road networks also run along the coastline. The vulnerability of ports and airports to sea level rise and to extreme weather events is of heightened concern as islands are generally dependent on imported food, fuel, and materials. 

PIRCA suggests that further research is needed on climate change and its localized impacts in order to inform adaptation strategies for the Pacific Islands. Specifically, improved data collection; improved model projections; and the development of Biogeochemical and Physical Models are priorities. 


Publication Date: December 2012


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Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Indicators

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