Asia Minute: Pacific Islands Face Climate Change Danger

Sep 8, 2017

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Severe weather is dominating national headlines—from Hurricane Irma’s move toward Florida to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It’s also bringing closer attention to the potential effects of climate change. And a new report from the World Bank highlights particular risks in the Asia Pacific. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


The World Bank gives a very direct warning when it comes to the regional cost of climate change.

The organization says it “could have more dire impacts on the Pacific islands than any other country in the world.”

That’s part of a new study called “Pacific Possible” released Thursday at the Pacific Islands Forum in Samoa.

It presents a spectrum of possibilities for rising oceans with a best case scenario of a 16-inch rise in ocean levels by 2100, and a worst case rise of nearly 50 inches.

Even under the most optimistic circumstances, the World Bank says seawall construction would be needed to protect coastlines – at a tremendous cost requiring international help.

The worst case scenario would force people from large areas in Pacific countries like Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu.

The Bank says that may mean large scale migration to Australia and New Zealand.

The study says the impact of climate change is already evident in the region: from coastal erosion to saltwater contamination of farmland and drinking water.

It cites recent experience as a reminder of the urgency of preparation for climate change.

The World Bank says when Cyclone Pam smashed into Vanuatu in 2015, it wiped out nearly two-thirds of the country’s economy.