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.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.