Learning Exchange: How Collaboration Can Facilitate Adaptation

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme began a five year initiative titled the Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PEBACC). This initiative includes the governments of Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu and through this project, these governments are able to collaborate with one another as well as with other international organizations to increase resilience to climate change through natural ecosystems. Read more ›

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Disaster Risk Reduction: How big data plays a role in its ambiguity

Disaster Risk Reduction efforts

Our team had the intent to investigate the true state of Oceania’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) efforts. But what seems like a clear topic, quickly turned into a complex web of strategies, policies, and programs that all relate to DRR in some form or another.

The problem of trying to measure Disaster Risk Reduction efforts is born from its multifaceted meaning and has major implications for policymakers and practitioners who work in these areas who are trying to understand the data.

For some, disaster risk reduction, or DRR in short, is an increased effort to respond to hazards to minimize their damage. This may look like the ‘Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA)’ system that’s being implemented [see my colleagues post for more info]. For others, it may be working on land tenure issues to support regional and urban planning strategies for resilient infrastructure development [see my colleagues post more info]. And for others, it may mean supporting the resilience of major economies and livelihoods of the communities and the country at large [see my post on resilient agriculture]. All of these initiatives fall under the auspices of disaster risk reduction.

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Moving Towards Resiliency: Locating Informal Settlements in Oceania

Informal settlements are growing throughout the world. Their exact locations and populations are difficult to determine, however, given their inherently spontaneous and sporadic nature. Informal settlements are also uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards, as they often consist of poor quality, semi-permanent structures on marginal land and have limited access to essential infrastructure.

As climate change increases the risk of environmental disasters any plan to increase Oceania’s resiliency must include informal settlements. Collecting and maintain datasets, however, is also uniquely difficult in Oceania.

The first step, therefore, to including Oceania’s vulnerable informal settlements is finding a cost-effective way to locate them and estimate the number of residents. Recent research using a machine learning model and freely available satellite imagery may provide the answer.

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Comment dit-on le “climate change” en Français? (3/3)

(This blog post completes my three-part series on France’s role as a stakeholder in our considerations of grand strategy. You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.)

What are the French stakes in disaster risk reduction in Oceania? And how does the French role influence the United State’s challenges, risks, and opportunities for engaging in this space?

France has been a security and humanitarian actor in the region long before the recent surge of interest in the Pacific. Looking at the facts and figures, French armed forces are stationed in New Caledonia and French Polynesia. France has played a major role in more than 15 relief operations in the Pacific region over the last 25 years in Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands.

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The Case of Many Indices – A Study of Disaster Risk Reduction Indices

We live in an age of information. Every day, we are collecting even more data that gives us more insight, and when combined with the modern computation power, helps us improve our understanding of our world. Indices leverage this information to standardize previous measurements, and in some cases, even measure that which previously could not be measured, allowing us to make sense of the abstract.

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Room to Step-Up: Australia’s Bid to Maintain Influence in Oceania (1/2)

As China becomes increasingly assertive in Oceania, Australia seeks to reinforce and strengthen ties with its Pacific neighbors. However, its success in reengaging the Pacific will depend on its willingness to step up on climate issues.

Australia has long been perhaps the preeminent partner to the Pacific. It is the largest provider of aid to the region, and for many Pacific Island Countries (PICs), Australia is a top trading partner. Its comparative size and proximity make it a generally more available and generous partner than other traditional Pacific allies such as New Zealand, the US, France, or Japan. Additionally, Australia likely has the strongest and most immediate vested interest in the security and stability of the region in comparison to other regional powers. Australia often explains its robust relations with neighboring PICs through the lens of a shared history and deep cultural ties; Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has stated that Australia regards its Pacific neighbors as vuvale – a Fijian word for family.

This article series explores Australia’s partnership with the Pacific, the effect of China’s increased presence in Oceania, and the need for Australia to meaningfully re-engage its neighbors. This article will discuss Australia’s current engagement efforts.

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When is a refugee not a refugee?: ‘Climate migrants’ in Oceania

Climate change is reshaping Oceania. Rising sea levels are physically changing the boundaries of island nations, rendering some coastal areas uninhabitable and leading to saltwater contamination of freshwater resources. Increasing ocean temperatures are causing fundamental shifts in fisheries’ food webs, with consequences for both sustenance and the economic livelihoods of Pacific islanders. In the potential eventuality that the international community cannot stem the tide of climate change before rising sea levels overtake the islands of Oceania, what does this mean for the people who have lived in this region for countless generations? 

For this blog post, I ask what climate change means for the people of Oceania, who have joined the ranks of the legally disenfranchised ‘climate migrants.’

The coastal lives of Pacific Islanders make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Photo courtesy of the Pacific Media Center archive.
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Heading to higher ground: Uncertainty in elevation data and sea level rise can under predict affected populations

One of the most visible threats to Oceania is sea level rise. Rightly so, as the Pacific Community (SPC) has estimated that the vast majority of people living in Oceania live within 1 kilometer of the coastline.

Screenshot of interactive map created by SPC to visualize populations within 1km of coastline

What can seem as a simple calculation of determining what percentage of a population lives within a certain distance of the coast (or within a certain range of sea level rise) is actually filled with large amounts of uncertainty. Ignoring the difficulty in collecting accurate and current census data, predicting sea level rise and how this interacts with coastal topography and local morphology is a multifaceted undertaking that requires large amounts of data to accurately calculate. Large blanket assumptions are often used to avoid addressing these complex relationships most commonly leading to under predicting the potential threat.

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Disease Outbreak Pt. 1: What Climate Disaster Means for Disease Outbreak

In many climate disaster related conversations, there is a villain that often flies under the radar. Communicable diseases are not at the forefront of climate change discussions. Island shores disappearing, dwindling water supplies, intense storms, air quality, and pollution all occupy disproportionately loud voices in the climate change conversation. Even this blog fails to cover the infectious disease aspects of climate change and climate related disaster. This is an oversight on the part of climate related sciences for the following reasons. First, communicable diseases account for three of the top ten causes of death according to the WHO. Second, infectious diseases have a larger impact among countries that are low and lower-middle income. Lastly, disasters often exacerbate existing problems that weakened medical infrastructure is no longer equipped to handle, this is particularly true of floods and mesquite born illness.

Table 1. Table of disease outbreak and associated disaster

In order to remedy this, I will post three part series discussing the impacts of climate change on infectious disease as it relates to Oceania. The series may change as I develop it, but I plan to discuss infectious disease from three perspectives. The first section will discuss how climate change related disasters can increase the breakout of infectious disease for small islands such as those in Oceania. The second will discuss the infrastructure and capacity of Oceania states to handle an infectious disease outbreak. The third and last section will assess what data indicators that may be helpful to profiling and mapping which Oceania states are at greater risk for climate disaster related infectious disease outbreaks.

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Rejecting Reality: Kiribati’s Shifting Climate Change Policies

In December 2015, world leaders passed the groundbreaking Paris Agreement at the 21st United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 21). In early December, world leaders met again in Madrid at COP 25 to negotiate details of the Paris Agreement and “were unable to reach consensus in many areas,” delaying decisions until 2020.

Anote Tong, then-president of the pacific island nation Kiribati, was a super-advocate for the agreement in the lead up to COP 21. Tong’s replacement, Taneti Maamau, did not fill Tong’s role at COP 25 and Kiribati’s climate change policy has regressed during his tenure. This post will examine that regression.

Kiribati’s Climate Change Apocalypse

Assuming all global climate policy goals are met, Kiribati will likely still be uninhabitable by 2100. In a business-as-usual scenario, Kiribati may disappear entirely, submerged in the Pacific Ocean.

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