The State of the Climate in South-West Pacific 2021report shows how weather-related disasters are undermining socio-economic development, and threatening health, food and water security. It provides a snapshot of climate indicators like temperatures, sea level rise, ocean heat and acidification and extreme weather, alongside risks and impacts.
Sea surface temperatures and ocean heat in parts of the South-West Pacific are increasing at more than three times the global average and harming vital ecosystems, whilst sea level rise poses an existential threat to low-lying islands and their people.
Temperatures in the region were cooler than the previous few years largely because of a La Niña event, which brought dry conditions in much of the equatorial Pacific, and wet conditions over parts of South-East Asia and Australia. But this did not reverse the long-term warming trend or slow other climate change impacts like the melting of glaciers.
In 2021, the region reported 57 natural hazards, 93% of which were floods and storms. Overall, 14.3 million people were directly affected by these disasters, causing total economic damage of US$ 5.7 billion. Economic damage from storms has increased by 30% and more than doubled for floods, compared to the past two decades.
And yet, despite being on the frontline of climate change, many countries in the South West Pacific region don’t have enough tools to adapt. There are big gaps in observing systems and early warning services. The region is therefore one of the priority targets of a new UN Early Warnings for All initiative to ensure that everyone on Earth is protected in the next five years.
The report was launched on 17 November at the UN climate change negotiations, COP27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The plight of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is one of the recurrent themes of the annual climate change negotiations. COP27 has a heavy emphasis on adaption financing and implementation of the Paris Agreement targets of limiting global temperature increase to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.