The Pacific and Indian Oceans are home to a wide array of cultures, and unique, rich, and valuable ecosystems, across many hundreds of islands. These areas are also among the most vulnerable when it comes to climate change, with limited accessible resources of food, water, and land, high risk exposure to sea-level rise and extreme weather and wave events, and the pressure exerted by increasing demand through population growth and economic development. This paper, published in the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, discusses the challenges of and responses to climate change in the Pacific Ocean region, and asks what lessons can be learned and transferred to the Indian Ocean context. The paper reports the key findings from the 2012 integrated report from the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA), an ongoing project initiated in 2011 that is conducted by an inter-disciplinary collaboration of scientists, public agencies, private business and communities through workshops, multiple dialogues, and literature reviews. Three major challenges identified are water insecurity exacerbated by changing precipitation patterns, rising sea-levels, and warming oceans that are likely to create more frequent and more extreme weather events. The paper then takes a more in-depth and cross-cutting look at these challenges, highlighting that in the pacific region: Food and water security are threatened from multiple stressors including drought, inundation of farmland by salt water, and increasing demand.Disaster preparedness, response and rebuilding requires improvement, both in terms of public awareness, and cooperation between civil society and government. * Loss of land from climate change, particularly sea-level rise, will see an increase in forced migration for which there is inadequate preparation. Climate change will impact the security environment, roles, strategy, and infrastructure with regard to military activity and capability. The paper then moves on to discuss the challenges for islands in the Indian ocean region, and how the lessons learned from the Pacific region might be transferred to this new context. Many of the challenges are shared ones, for instance sea-level rise threatening coastal areas of countries such as Mauritius, and a reliance on fragile eco-systems for tourism, as in the Seychelles. The authors recommend the following lessons as being transferable:
Build resilient island communities through inclusive decision-making, vertical and horizontal collaboration, science and evidence-led policy making, and the prioritisation of long-term efficacy and fiscal sustainability.
Engage innovative leadership: unprecedented challenges require innovative thinking, and community leaders should be empowered to network, couple top-down and bottom-up strategies, and identify creative solutions that reflect cross-sectoral and multi-level approaches.
Support integrated research and outreach that brings together scientists and decision-makers in an inter-disciplinary approach, as exemplified by the Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA).
Funding and in-kind support for use-inspired, problem-focused, stakeholder-drive,n and iterative approaches can enhance the likelihood of building climate resilience across the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
The paper concludes that climate challenges facing island communities are multiple, and daunting. Yet, by sharing lesson and identifying the common and unique challenges faced, these regions can can ensure efficient and wise investment of scarce resources, and maximise climate resilience.