Climatic Change

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 321–337

Climate Dangers and Atoll Countries

  • Jon Barnett
  • W. Neil Adger


Climate change-induced sea-level rise, sea-surface warming, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events puts the long-term ability of humans to inhabit atolls at risk. We argue that this risk constitutes a dangerous level of climatic change to atoll countries by potentially undermining their national sovereignty. We outline the novel challenges this presents to both climate change research and policy. For research, the challenge is to identify the critical thresholds of change beyond which atoll social-ecological systems may collapse. We explain how thresholds may be behaviorally driven as well as ecologically driven through the role of expectations in resource management. The challenge for the international policy process, centred on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is to recognize the particular vulnerability of atoll countries by operationalising international norms of justice, sovereignty, and human and national security in the regime.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon Barnett
    • 1
  • W. Neil Adger
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental StudiesUniversity of MelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and CSERGE, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichU.K

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