Skip to main content

Climate change adaptation trends in small island developing states

Abstract

Small island developing states (SIDS) are among the countries in the world that are most vulnerable to climate change and required to adapt to its impacts. Yet, there is little information in the academic literature about how SIDS are adapting to climate change, across multiple countries and geographic regions. This paper helps to fill this gap. Using a sample of 16 countries across the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea, Caribbean and Pacific regions, this study has two main aims, to identify (1) national-level adaptation trends across climate, climate-induced and non-climate-induced vulnerabilities, sectors and actors, as reported in National Communications (NCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and (2) typologies of national-level adaptation actions in SIDS. It identifies, codes and assesses 977 adaptation actions. These actions were reported as addressing 47 climate and climate-induced vulnerabilities and 50 non-climate-induced vulnerabilities and were undertaken in 37 sectors by 34 actors. The paper proposes five typologies of adaptation actions for SIDS, based on actions reported by SIDS. It specifically explores the implications of its findings for global adaptation strategies. As this work establishes a baseline of adaptation action in SIDS, it can assist national governments to gauge their adaptation progress, identify gaps in their adaptation effort and, thereafter, develop appropriate strategies for filling the gaps. It can also assist donors, whether bilateral or multilateral, to make more ‘climate-smart’ investment decisions by being able to identify the adaptation needs that are not being met in SIDS.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Although the United Nations does not maintain an official list of SIDS (Bruckner 2013), the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) identifies 57 SIDS (UN-OHRLLS 2015). The nine SIDS in the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea (AIMS) region are Bahrain, Cape Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Maldives, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles and Singapore. The 28 SIDS in the Caribbean are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and United States Virgin Islands. The 20 SIDS in the Pacific are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Marianas Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

References

  1. Adger WN, Huq S, Brown K, Conway D, Hulme M (2003) Adaptation to climate change in the developing world. Prog Dev Stud 3:179–195

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Anckar D (2013) Legislatures in small polities. In: Baldwin N (ed) Legislatures of small states: a comparative study. Routledge, Oxon, pp 12–20

    Google Scholar 

  3. Babinard J, Bennett CR, Hatziolos ME, Faiz A, Somani A (2014) Sustainably managing natural resources and the need for construction materials in pacific island countries: the example of south Tarawa, Kiribati. Nat Resour Forum 38:58–66

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Barnett J, O’Neill S (2010) Maladaptation. Glob Environ Chang 20:211–213

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Belle N, Bramwell B (2005) Climate change and small island tourism: policy maker and industry perspectives in Barbados. J Travel Res 44:32–41

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Benamara H (2013) The special case of small island developing States. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Geneva

  7. Berrang-Ford L, Ford JD, Paterson J (2011) Are we adapting to climate change? Glob Environ Chang 21:25–33

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Berrang-Ford L, Ford JD, Lesnikowski A, Poutiainen C, Barrera M, Heymann SJ (2014) What drives national adaptation? A global assessment. Clim Chang 124:441–450

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bevir M (2007) Encyclopedia of governance. Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks

    Book  Google Scholar 

  10. Biagini B, Bierbaum R, Stults M, Dobardzic S, McNeeley SM (2014) A typology of adaptation actions: a global look at climate adaptation actions financed through the global environment facility. Glob Environ Chang 25:97–108

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Breidenich C (2011) Improving reporting of national communications and GHG inventories by Non-annex I parties under the climate convention. Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bruckner M (2013) Effectively addressing the vulnerabilities and development needs of small island developing states. United Nations, New York

    Google Scholar 

  13. Campbell J (2006) Traditional disaster reduction in Pacific Island communities. Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Ltd, Avalon

    Google Scholar 

  14. Cornwall A, Brock K (2005) What do buzzwords do for development policy? A critical look at ‘participation’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘poverty reduction’. Third World Q 26:1043–1060

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Dahl AL (1991) Island directory: UNEP regional seas directories and bibliographies No. 35. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi

    Google Scholar 

  16. Denton F et al (2014) Climate-resilient pathways: adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development. In: Field CB et al (eds) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability part a: global and sectoral aspects contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel of climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1101–1131

    Google Scholar 

  17. Dessai S, Hulme M, Lempert R, Pielke R (2009) Do we need better predictions to adapt to a changing climate? Eos-Trans Am Geophys Union 90:111–112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Dohan R, Hove H, Echeverría D, Hammill A, Parry J-E (2011) Review of current and planned adaptation action: the pacific. International Institute for Sustainable Development, Winnipeg

    Google Scholar 

  19. Dovers SR, Hezri AA (2010) Institutions and policy processes: the means to the ends of adaptation. Wires Clim Chang 1:212–231

    Google Scholar 

  20. Duvat V (2013) Coastal protection structures in Tarawa Atoll, Republic of Kiribati. Sustain Sci 8:363–379

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Eisenack K, Stecker R (2012) A framework for analyzing climate change adaptations as actions. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 17:243–260

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Ellis J, Moarif S, Briner G (2011) Core elements of national reports. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/International Energy Agency, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  23. Elo S, Kyngas H (2008) The qualitative content analysis process. J Adv Nurs 62:107–115

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Eriksen S et al (2011) When not every response to climate change is a good one: Identifying principles for sustainable adaptation. Clim Dev 3:7–20

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Fankhauser S, Smith JB, Tol RSJ (1999) Weathering climate change: some simple rules to guide adaptation decisions. Ecol Econ 30:67–78

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Fletcher SM, Thiessen J, Gero A, Rumsey M, Kuruppu N, Willetts J (2013) Traditional coping strategies and disaster response: examples from the South Pacific region. J Environ Public Health 2013:1–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Ford JD, Berrang-Ford L, Paterson J (2011) A systematic review of observed climate change adaptation in developed nations. Clim Chang 106:327–336

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Funfgeld H, McEvoy D (2011) Framing climate change adaptation in policy and practice. Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research, Melbourne

    Google Scholar 

  29. Füssel H-M (2010) How inequitable is the global distribution of responsibility, capability, and vulnerability to climate change: a comprehensive indicator-based assessment. Glob Environ Chang 20:597–611

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Gagnon-Lebrun F, Agrawala S (2007) Implementing adaptation in developed countries: an analysis of progress and trends. Clim Policy 7:392–408

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Guillotreau P, Campling L, Robinson J (2012) Vulnerability of small island fishery economies to climate and institutional changes. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 4:287–291

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Hallegatte S (2009) Strategies to adapt to an uncertain climate change. Glob Environ Chang 19:240–247

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Hinkel J (2011) “Indicators of vulnerability and adaptive capacity”: towards a clarification of the science–policy interface. Glob Environ Chang 21:198–208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Hiwasaki L, Luna E, Syamsidik, Shaw R (2014) Process for integrating local and indigenous knowledge with science for hydro-meteorological disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in coastal and small island communities. Int J Disaster Risk Red 10(Part A):15–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Huang JCK (1997) Climate change and integrated coastal management: a challenge for small island nations. Ocean Coast Manag 37:95–107

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. IPCC (2014) Annex II: glossary. In: Barros VR et al (eds) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability part B: regional aspects contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1757–1776

    Google Scholar 

  37. Jones HP, Hole DG, Zavaleta ES (2012) Harnessing nature to help people adapt to climate change. Nat Clim Chang 2:504–509

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Kates RW, Travis WR, Wilbanks TJ (2012) Transformational adaptation when incremental adaptations to climate change are insufficient. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109:7156–7161

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Kelman I (2014) No change from climate change: vulnerability and small island developing states. Geogr J 180:120–129

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Kinsella EA (2006) Hermeneutics and critical hermeneutics: exploring possibilities within the Art of interpretation. Forum: Qual Soc Res 7:1–16

    Google Scholar 

  41. Klein RJT, Nicholls RJ, Mimura N (1999) Coastal adaptation to climate change: can the IPCC technical guidelines be applied? Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 4:239–252

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Klint LM, Wong E, Jiang M, Delacy T, Harrison D, Dominey-Howes D (2012) Climate change adaptation in the Pacific Island tourism sector: analysing the policy environment in Vanuatu. Curr Issues Tour 15:247–274

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Kuruppu N (2009) Adapting water resources to climate change in Kiribati: the importance of cultural values and meanings. Environ Sci Policy 12:799–809

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Lakoff G (2010) Why it matters how we frame the environment. Environ Commun 4:70–81

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Lechner FJ (2000) Systems theory and functionalism. In: Turner BS (ed) The Blackwell companion to social theory, 2nd edn. Blackwell Publishers, Inc., Malden, pp 112–132

    Google Scholar 

  46. Lesnikowski AC, Ford JD, Berrang-Ford L, Barrera M, Heymann J (2015) How are we adapting to climate change? A global assessment. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 20:277–293

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Mavrogenis S, Kelman I, Mercer J, Kurvits T (2014) Comparing tools and methodologies for climate change adaptation in Small Island developing States. National Technical University of Athens, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  48. McEvoy D, Fünfgeld H, Bosomworth K (2013) Resilience and climate change adaptation: the importance of framing. Plan Pract Res 28:280–293

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. McGray H, Hammill A, Bradley R, Schipper EL, Parry J-E (2007) Weathering the storm: options for framing adaptation and development. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  50. Medeiros D, Hove H, Keller M, Echeverría D, Parry J-E (2011) Review of current and planned adaptation action: the Caribbean. International Institute for Sustainable Development, Winnipeg

    Google Scholar 

  51. Mercer J, Kelman I, Alfthan B, Kurvits T (2012) Ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change in Caribbean Small Island developing States: integrating local and external knowledge. Sustainability 4:1908–1932

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Mercer J, Kurvits T, Kelman I, Mavrogenis S (2014) Ecosystem-based adaptation for food security in the AIMS SIDS: integrating external and local knowledge. Sustainability 6:5566–5597

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Monnereau I, Abraham S (2013) Limits to autonomous adaptation in response to coastal erosion in Kosrae, Micronesia. Int J Glob Warming 5:416–432

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Moser SC, Ekstrom JA (2010) A framework to diagnose barriers to climate change adaptation. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107:22026–22031

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Mycoo M (2014) Sustainable tourism, climate change and sea level rise adaptation policies in Barbados. Nat Resour Forum 38:47–57

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Nisbet MC (2009) Communicating climate change: why frames matter for public engagement 0065nvironment. Environ: Sci Policy Sustain Dev 51:12–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Nunn PD, Aalbersberg W, Lata S, Gwilliam M (2014) Beyond the core: community governance for climate-change adaptation in peripheral parts of Pacific Island Countries. Reg Environ Chang 14:221–235

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Nurse LA et al (2014) Small islands. In: Barros VR et al (eds) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability part B: regional aspects contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, pp 1613–1654

    Google Scholar 

  59. Pernetta JC (1992) Impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on small island states: national and international responses. Glob Environ Chang 2:19–31

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Pfeffer J, Salancik GR (1978) The external control of organizations: a resource dependence perspective. Harper & Row, New York

    Google Scholar 

  61. Preston BL, Westaway RM, Yuen EJ (2011) Climate adaptation planning in practice: an evaluation of adaptation plans from three developed nations. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 16:407–438

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Simpson MC, Gössling S, Scott D, Hall CM, Gladin E (2008) Climate change adaptation and mitigation in the tourism sector: frameworks, tools and practices. United Nations Environment Programme, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  63. Sloan A, Bowe B (2014) Phenomenology and hermeneutic phenomenology: the philosophy, the methodologies, and using hermeneutic phenomenology to investigate lecturers’ experiences of curriculum design. Qual Quant 48:1291–1303

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Smit B, Burton I, Klein RJT, Wandel J (2000) An anatomy of adaptation to climate change and variability. Clim Chang 45:223–251

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Tompkins EL (2005) Planning for climate change in small islands: insights from national hurricane preparedness in the Cayman Islands. Glob Environ Chang 15:139–149

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Tompkins EL, Adger WN, Boyd E, Nicholson-Cole S, Weatherhead K, Arnell N (2010) Observed adaptation to climate change: UK evidence of transition to a well-adapting society. Glob Environ Chang 20:627–635

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. United Nations (1992) United Nations framework convention on climate change. United Nations, Rio de Janiero

    Google Scholar 

  68. UN-OHRLLS (2015) About SIDS: Country Profiles. United Nations. http://unohrlls.org/about-sids/country-profiles/. Accessed June 18, 2015

  69. UN-OHRLLS (2011) Small island developing states: small island, Big(ger) stakes. United Nations office of the high representative for the least developed countries. Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, New York

    Google Scholar 

  70. Webb RJ, McKellar R, Kay R (2013) Climate change adaptation in Australia: experience, challenges and capability development Australas J Environ 20:320–337

  71. Wilby RL, Dessai S (2010) Robust adaptation to climate change. Weather 65:180–185

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Wong E, Jiang M, Klint LM, Dominey-Howes D, DeLacy T (2013) Evaluation of policy environment for climate change adaptation in tourism 13:201–225

  73. World Bank (2015) Country and lending groups. World Bank. http://data.worldbank.org/about/country-and-lending-groups. Accessed 20 Oct 2015

Download references

Acknowledgments

The author wishes to acknowledge constructive feedback on earlier drafts from A/Prof. Jamie Pittock, Drs. Ian Fry and Bob Webb and Profs. Ian White and Stephen Dovers at The Australian National University, Australia, Prof Karen Edyvane at Charles Darwin University, Australia, and the three anonymous reviewers; and proofreading by Candice Gordon Williams and Tiffany Taylor. The author takes responsibility for all errors.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stacy-ann Robinson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Robinson, Sa. Climate change adaptation trends in small island developing states. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 22, 669–691 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-015-9693-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • National Communications
  • Non-Annex I Parties
  • Small island developing states (SIDS)
  • Sustainable development
  • Trends
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)