Nauru - Climate

Like other small island nations Nauru has been profoundly disturbed with the implications of climate change since the problem appeared on the world scene. Being one of the smaller low lying island nations it is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including sea level rise.

Nauru is clearly one of the most severely impacted nations on earth from environmental degradation. It has been the subject of intense mining for the critical element phosphate for a good part of the 20th century. The mining has removed a large proportion of original forest, and arable land. Scarcity of arable land and fresh water resources, geographic isolation, dependence on imports for meeting basic food and energy needs, environmental degradation and the emergence of chronic health problems all make achieving sustainable development a difficult task, and at the same time also create vulnerability to other stresses, such as those brought on by climate change.

Nauru faces a full range of geologic and climatic hazards and is also subjected to climatic variability and extremes. The main climate change vulnerabilities in Nauru include drought, sea level rise and the effect that an increase in temperature will have on marine resources and already stressed water and vegetative resources. Due to environmental degradation, the island is already experiencing coastal erosion and declines in the productivity of its coral reef systems. Rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and an increase in the number of intense storms and droughtwill cause further damage to these ecosystems. Climate-related disasters have already had huge impacts on the economic growth and national development.

With only around 10,000 persons, Nauru has very limited capacity to respond to a global threat of this magnitude. As such its response has to be streamlined to sit within its capabilities. In this respect its main concern is adaptation. This concern is predicated on projected temperature increases due to existing and inevitable near term future levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which will be sufficient to cause global warming well beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius that is considered safe for SIDS. This temperature increase will put in place an inevitable sea level rise that will be an existential threat to the Nauruan population.

In terms of adaptation Nauru is keen to improve its resilience which has been severely compromised by nearly a century of intensive phosphate mining. One such improvement will be transition to untapped clean energy sources, such as renewable resources rather than relying on the traditional imported dirty liquid fuels. The other pressing adaptation strategy is to improve the indigenous food supply and potable water availability and storage. In addition there is a concurrent need to rehabilitate the environment and improve the health of the population. The issue of loss and damage is important to Nauru, particularly when considering the current low level of mitigation ambition internationally.

Climate change adds to the already significant challenges of achieving the development goals and it undermines food and water security, erode coastlines, damage marine ecosystems and will impede on progress already made. The impacts of climate change will also add extra burden to the national budget diverting resources away from other important sectors and activities such as education, health and economic development.

Vulnerability in the case of Nauru is a combination of different factors including climate change. These developmental and environmental challenges illustrate Nauruís vulnerability to external stresses and risks, including those posed by climate change. At the national and community scale in Nauru, some of the factors that create vulnerability are: scarce water resources; limited land and soil resources; environmental degradation; high concentration of income activities; dependence on imports; geographical isolation; low human capacity; chronic health problems; aid dependency; and risk of climate change and disaster. Further priorities are expected to emerge over time as Nauru increases its capacity to respond to vulnerability and risk or its lack of capacity to respond.

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