Averaging enough seasonal melt to fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools (Resource Watch, 2019), Greenland contains an estimated 7.4m of potential water level rise. 27cm of rise is already irreversibly committed due to the destabilisation of the ice sheet (Box et al., 2022).
This potential for Greenlandic melt is one of the direct effects of the warming Arctic, which is four times faster than the rest of the world (Rantananen et al., 2022).
Normally, a snow- and ice-covered Arctic would reflect most of the incoming solar radiation back to space, thereby helping to regulate global temperature.
However, as the ice melts, more heat is absorbed and the more the planet warms. Sea level rise, however, is not the only effect of this warming felt in the Pacific.
In recent years, one of the other main concerns in the Pacific relates to storms. The same warming that drives Greenlandic and sea ice melt also enables the atmosphere to hold more moisture.
This added moisture increases the potency of storms (IPCC AR6 WG1, 2021). In addition to greater wind speeds, these stronger storms bring increased precipitation, higher storm surges and greater flooding.
The Pacific islands are united in their reliance upon the marine biome for food and sustenance. However, rising seas and warming temperatures are two factors that change the local waters, which can exacerbate food insecurity and economic struggles. Secondary factors like this have impacted the region’s preparedness and ability to recover from disasters.
Socio-economic impacts of climate change have a negative impact on people’s livelihoods and wider economies. Read more on our Socio Economic Impacts page
As one of the costliest climate hazards for Pacific Island nations, tropical cyclones bring devastating impacts on assets, infrastructure and lives.
In 2020, Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasa affected approximately 100,000 people across Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, causing damage of over US$246.7 million (Echo Flash, 2020). I
n 2016, Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone that year, impacted roughly 350,000 people and took 44 lives across Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga, and led to damages worth approximately US$1.4 billion (Reliefweb, 2016; ADB, 2017).
Composed of 33 atolls with an average elevation of 1.8 metres above sea level, Kiribati is expected to be one of the first countries to become uninhabitable due to sea level rise by 2050.
At a 0.9 metre rise in sea level, approximately 66% of Kiribati’s land could be lost (Phelan, 2022). Two of the atolls have already been permanently inundated and more are nearing a state of uninhabitability (Iberdrola, n.d.).
While this plan was later revoked due to contradicting projections of the threat of sea level rise and changes in leadership, in 2014, Kiribati’s government acquired over 2.200 hectares of land in Fiji with the intent of ensuring both food security and a place for roughly 70% of the Kiribati population to relocate (Ellesmoor and Rosen, 2016). Now, the purchased land is planned for use to provide Kiribati with nutritious food. \
Despite increases over the years, the average resident of Kiribati still only emits 0.47 tons of carbon dioxide every year (Our World in Data, n.d.-a). In comparing that to 4.47 tons, the global average per capita (Statista, n.d.), or the average US resident’s 15.5 tons (Our World in Data, n.d.-b), we are painting a picture of indisputable climate injustice.
Due to the Pacific islands’ low elevation and loss of outer islands, many countries are increasingly susceptible to storm surges and saltwater intrusion (World Bank, 2019).
This is putting their water security at risk (UNICEF, 2022a).
In June 2022, the Government of Kiribati declared a State of Disaster due to prolonged drought conditions as 79% of the archipelagic nation’s population was impacted (UNICEF, 2022b).
Rising sea levels threatens the very existence of the Marshall Islands, as the swallowing of the islands risks changing its status under international law from a habitable state to an uninhabitable bit of land (Leb ,2021).
Global sea levels have risen more than 20 centimetres since the start of the 20th century, with 2.8 to 3.6 millimetres coming in just the past thirty years (NASA, 2022). However, the rise in the Marshall Islands has been advancing at twice the rate (Australian Government, 2013). With king tides happening more frequently, “Waves regularly wash over the protective barriers that line the shore. Streets are getting flooded more frequently. Drinking water gets polluted. Livelihoods are destroyed. [Climate Envoy for the Marshall Islands Ministry of Environment] Jetn̄il-Kijiner says the threat of a flood is always looming in people’s minds” (Kottasová and Doran, 2022).
With 1 metre of sea level rise, 96% of the city will be at risk for frequent flooding and 40% of buildings may be destroyed. As such, the country is exploring new options, including elevating regions and building entirely new islands. According to Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, “[It’s] completely unfair. We shouldn’t have to do that. These are extreme measures that will cost us billions of dollars, all because of something we had contributed nothing to.”
The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.