CliSAP successfully finished in 2018. Climate research continues in the Cluster of Excellence "CLICCS".

Climate Change Endangers Small-Island Populations


Climate change is threatening the inhabitants of small island states – particularly as a result of the expected average rise in sea level of around a meter by 2100. This would seriously affect almost a third of the population of these often remote countries, warned representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the third UN Conference for Small Island Developing States in Apia (Samoa), which ends today.

A third of the inhabitants of small islands is threatened by climate change.
“Keep out!” Beach erosion in the Bahamas
Hotel complexes just above sea level in the Bahamas

At the UN conference, a group of experts presented a report outlining the particular challenges facing islands. It also offers outlooks for the future. One of the authors is the researcher Prof. Beate Ratter from the Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN): “We have developed four future scenarios, which are intended as food for thought and will hopefully prompt action.” The experts are calling for measures to support social and family structures, sustainable and environmentally friendly economies as well as the introduction of new technologies adapted for islands, such as those for generating energy. “What these states need is a functioning blue-green economy,” sums up Ratter. These economies are particularly sensitive to the needs of small islands while at the same time making environmentally friendly use of resources possible.      

Islands are frequently the focus of climate research. Small islands are especially vulnerable, since global processes have an immediate impact on them, transport to the mainland often involves long distances and is costly, and many are economically weak. “These regions can show those of us in less threatened areas like Europe the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, droughts and severe storms. Maybe we can learn something from small islands,” says Ratter. 

Along with an analysis of the current situation and outlooks for the future, the report includes examples from island states that are already implementing solutions. A climate-adapted sustainable tourism concept has been developed in Barbados, and in the Pacific, French Polynesia and the Cook Islands are working towards making traditional pearl fishing more sustainable. In Seychelles, a successful pilot project to collect rainwater on school roofs is to be extended to all the Republic’s islands.

Further Information:

•    UNEP Report: Global Environmental Outlook GEO for Small Island (PDF, E-Book)

•    Small Island States

•   Island Database for Climate Researchers by Prof. Beate Ratter