Climate change and food security in Pacific Island countries
With increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent and
intense extreme weather events, Pacific islands countries, especially those in
warmer latitudes, are the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
Their populations are expected to be among the first that will need to adapt to
climate change or even abandon their traditional homeland and relocate. Unless
we act now, climate change will constitute a major barrier to the achievement of
sustainable development and viable food production goals for all Pacific island
countries, while threatening the very existence of many of them.
Ocean warming and acidification, spatial changes in precipitation patterns and
frequent cyclones are projected to have devastating effects on the food sector,
ranging from loss of the coral reefs and mangrove forests on which fish depends, to
reduced agricultural yields and loss of arable land and freshwater. Recognizing that
subsistence and commercial agriculture are vital to local food security and earning
export revenues, it becomes quite certain that implementation of adaptation measures
to build resilience of food systems is critical to avoiding enormous economic losses
in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. For example, in the absence of adaptation, the
cost of damages in the food sector by 2050 could represent 2–3 percent of Fiji’s
and 17–18 percent of Kiribati’s 2002 gross domestic product. Although regional
organizations and national groups are involved in adaptation to climate change
in the Pacific, there are synergies that remain unexploited, especially between the
environmental conservation and agricultural development constituencies.
For this reason, it is imperative that environmental and agricultural institutions
join forces and catalyze support to further increase resilience against climate
change impacts in the Pacific. Systematic observation, adaptation programmes,
improved institutional frameworks for disaster risk management and partnerships
at all levels are essential elements for any strategy to enhances livelihoods and
local capacities to cope with climate change in the food sector.
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