Small Islands

• Sea-level rise and increased sea-water temperature are projected to accelerate beach erosion, and cause degradation of natural coastal defences such as mangroves and coral reefs. It is likely that these changes would, in turn, negatively impact the attraction of small islands as premier tourism destinations. According to surveys, it is likely that, in some islands, up to 80% of tourists would be unwilling to return for the same holiday price in the event of coral bleaching and reduced beach area resulting from elevated sea surface temperatures and sea-level rise. ** D [16.4.6]

• Port facilities at Suva, Fiji, and Apia, Samoa, are likely to experience overtopping, damage to wharves and flooding of the hinterland following a 0.5 m rise in sea level combined with waves associated with a 1 in 50-year cyclone. *** D [16.4.7]

• International airports on small islands are mostly sited on or within a few kilometres of the coast, and the main (and often only) road network runs along the coast. Under sea-level rise scenarios, many of them are likely to be at serious risk from inundation, flooding and physical damage associated with coastal inundation and erosion. *** D [16.4.7]

• Coastal erosion on Arctic islands has additional climate sensitivity through the impact of warming on permafrost and massive ground ice, which can lead to accelerated erosion and volume loss, and the potential for higher wave energy. *** D [16.4.2]

• Reduction in average rainfall is very likely to reduce the size of the freshwater lens. A 10% reduction in average rainfall by 2050 is likely to correspond to a 20% reduction in the size of the freshwater lens on Tarawa Atoll, Kiribati. In general, a reduction in physical size resulting from land loss accompanying sea-level rise could reduce the thickness of the freshwater lens on atolls by as much as 29%. *** N [16.4.1]

• Without adaptation, agricultural economic costs from climate change are likely to reach between 2-3% and 17-18% of 2002 GDP by 2050, on high terrain (e.g., Fiji) and low terrain (e.g., Kiribati) islands, respectively, under SRES A2 (1.3°C increase by 2050) and B2 (0.9°C increase by 2050). ** N [16.4.3]

• With climate change, increased numbers of introductions and enhanced colonisation by alien species are likely to occur on mid- and high-latitude islands. These changes are already evident on some islands. For example, in species-poor sub-Antarctic island ecosystems, alien microbes, fungi, plants and animals have been causing a substantial loss of local biodiversity and changes to ecosystem function. ** N [16.4.4]

• Outbreaks of climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria, dengue, filariasis and schistosomiasis can be costly in lives and economic impacts. Increasing temperatures and decreasing water availability due to climate change is likely to increase burdens of diarrhoeal and other infectious diseases in some small-island states. ** D [16.4.5]

• Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on tourism destination selection ** D [16.4.6]. Several small-island countries (e.g., Barbados, Maldives, Seychelles, Tuvalu) have begun to invest in the implementation of adaptation strategies, including desalination, to offset current and projected water shortages. *** D [16.4.1]

• Studies so far conducted on adaptation on islands suggest that adaptation options are likely to be limited and the costs high relative to GDP. Recent work has shown that, in the case of Singapore, coastal protection would be the least-cost strategy to combat sea-level rise under three scenarios, with the cost ranging from US$0.3-5.7 million by 2050 to US$0.9-16.8 million by 2100. ** D [16.5.2]

• Although adaptation choices for small islands may be limited and adaptation costs high, exploratory research indicates that there are some co-benefits which can be generated from pursuing prudent adaptation strategies. For example, the use of waste-to-energy and other renewable energy systems can promote sustainable development, while strengthening resilience to climate change. In fact, many islands have already embarked on initiatives aimed at ensuring that renewables constitute a significant percentage of the energy mix. ** D [16.4.7, 16.6]

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