Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research
Climate Change in the Pacific is a rigorously researched, peer-reviewed scientific assessment of the climate of the western Pacific region. Building on the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this two volume publication represents a comprehensive resource on the climate of the Pacific.
Introduction and Background
Islanders, especially in the Pacific region, have a strong relationship with the land and ocean so changes in climate can represent a threat not only to the physical environment but also to their culture and customs.
Already, people living in Pacific Islands and East Timor are experiencing changes in their climate such as higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, changing frequencies of extreme events and rising sea levels. These changes are affecting peoples’ lives and livelihoods, as well as important industries such as agriculture and tourism. In recognition of this, leaders of the Pacific Island Countries and Territories developed the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change 2006–2015 to guide the building of resilience to the risks and impacts of climate change.
In 2008, the Australian Government launched the International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative to meet high priority adaptation needs of vulnerable countries within the Asia‑Pacific region. Improved understanding of the physical climate system is required to inform effective adaptation and this is being addressed through a component of the International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative called the Pacific Climate Change Science Program (PCCSP). The PCCSP is a collaborative research partnership between Australian Government agencies, East Timor and 14 Pacific Island countries (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue,
Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu), carried out in collaboration with regional and international organisations (Figure ES.1).
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) identified significant research gaps which needed to be filled to better inform climate change adaptation and resilience building in small-island developing States. The report identified a number of information gaps and research priorities, noting in particular that many small islands lacked adequate observational data, and that output from global climate models was not of sufficiently fine resolution to provide specific information for islands. These regional and Partner Country climate change science needs formed the basis for the development of the research of the PCCSP.
The 15 Partner Countries are immensely diverse in terms of their history, geography, climate, natural resource base and culture. As part of the group of small island developing States, they share many similar sustainable development challenges such as small populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks and dependence on international trade.
Guided by the Australian Agency for International Development and the Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the PCCSP is delivered by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, through their research partnership in the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research. The PCCSP’s objectives are to:
• Conduct a comprehensive climate change science research program aimed at providing in-depth information about past, present and future climate in Partner Countries.
• Build the capacity of Partner Countries’ national meteorological services and scientific organisations to undertake scientific research.
• Disseminate the information to Partner Countries’ stakeholders and other parties.
Climate is defined as the average weather over 30 years or more. In different chapters in this publication, different averaging periods, such as 20 years, are also used. Climate change is defined as a change in the state of the climate, identified by changes in the mean and/ or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer (IPCC, 2007).