Climate change information can be complex and difficult to access
Pacific island nations are among the most vulnerable to our changing climate, with many already experiencing higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events. Further changes on top of an existing, naturally variable climate are expected long into the future because of global warming.
These changes in the climate have far-reaching consequences that will affect communities and the built and natural environment.
While there is credible scientific information available about climate change in the Pacific, applying the information to inform risk management, adaptation planning and associated decision-making for sectors including health, infrastructure, water, energy, tourism, food (fisheries, agriculture) and natural resources (forestry, biodiversity) is not straightforward.
As a result, climate change information can often be under-utilised and/or used incorrectly in decision making. In turn, this can potentially lead to inconsistent or incomplete strategic/policy settings, missed opportunity in relation to adaptation planning and investment, and otherwise ill-informed on-ground climate action.
A framework for finding and applying climate change information
In partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), CSIRO has undertaken a project entitled Next Generation Climate Projections for the Western Tropical Pacific. This project has been funded by the Australian Government through the Australia-Pacific Climate Partnership.
The project updated model-based projections for key climate hazards for each of 14 partner Pacific Island countries, together with country/sector specific case studies, non-technical guidance materials and communication products to facilitate sectoral applications.
In the Pacific, national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHSs) are one of the key providers of science-based climate change services on behalf of local stakeholders, including sectors and local communities.
We have prepared guidelines to assist the national meteorological services to jointly undertake hazard-based climate change impact assessments with their sector-based stakeholders. The guidelines broadly outline steps for identifying, developing and applying climate change information as part of a staged impact assessment process, and provide advice and resources for undertaking each step
We have also worked with various NMHSs and sectors to apply the NextGen projections as part of selected sectoral case studies in PNG (coffee and cocoa), Samoa (Cocoa), root crops (Fiji) and pearl oysters (Cook Islands). Other case studies have also been undertaken at a regional scale including macro-economic impacts of climate change in tourism sector, impacts of climate change and vector-borne disease in the health sector, and impacts of climate change and tropical cyclones.
These case studies have provided the opportunity to review and update the existing guidance materials for application of 'NextGen' climate projections for undertaking sectoral, hazard-based impact assessments in the Pacific. The case studies also serve as a useful demonstration of the process to apply climate change information in real-world settings.
All 'NextGen' project outputs are available on the Regional Climate Consortium for Asia and the Pacific data portal, Pacific Climate Change Portal, and Pacific Meteorological Desk & Partnership.
Climate-smart sectoral decision-making
The climate change science knowledge and products developed by the Next Generation Climate Projections for the Western Tropical Pacific project, are a key resource for Pacific adaptation planning.
By providing national meteorological services and their sectoral stakeholders with enhanced capacity for developing sector-specific climate change information products, the project is helping to ensure that planning and adaptation decisions are informed by best available climate change science. These 'climate-smart' decisions are essential for building resilient communities, industries and countries.