Current Forecast: Nauru and a Changing Climate
Nauru’s coast, the only habitable area, is threatened by rising sea levels and is steadily eroding.
In a year-round climate of very hot and humid conditions, Nauru is hit by monsoon rains every year. Like many of its Pacific neighbours, Nauru has a unique set of challenges, with rising temperatures and extreme weather events that cause coastal erosion and large amounts of rainfall.
In 2011, Nauru took over as chair of the Alliance of Small Island Stes (AOSIS), a 43-member group whose members are from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean.
• The country, in brief. The island is roughly eight square miles and with just over 10,000 residents, and its nearest neighbours are some 300 kilometres away. The highest point is 200 feet above sea level, but much of the interior has been ravaged by the effects of phosphate mining, which has left it with scarce resources. Coconut farming, mining, and introduced species have caused serious disturbances to native vegetation, and there are no native mammals—only insects, birds and fish.
• The weather patterns in Nauru are no longer predictable, and forecasting weather conditions continues to be difficult for climatologists. Climate change has caused severe periods of drought coupled with intense storms that threaten the island nation. This unpredictability is complicated by the effects of the weather systems known as El Niño and La Niña, according to climatologists. Nauru experiences as much as 4,500 mm of rainfall during an El Niño year, when conditions are warmer and wetter, but can receive as little as 500 mm of rain during a La Niña year, when conditions are drier and cool.
• Rising sea levels will take their toll. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2007 that sea levels would rise between seven and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimetres) this century, but a rate of ice-melt in the Arctic that is much faster than anticipated has prompted many scientists to raise the projection to about one metre. Measuring sea levels among the Pacific islands — and trying to establish trends — is still somewhat imprecise.
• The rising temperatures among the Pacific islands poses a serious risk to one of their main sources of food, fish. As oceans continue to warm, certain fish will migrate to cooler conditions and nutrient-rich waters. This ultimately will not only threaten nourishment for its citizens, but also the island’s reef ecosystem, where the warming climate produces more extreme storms, more runoff, and more acidic water that bleaches coral reefs.
• For the full country profile, visit the Nauru’s page on the Pacific Climate Change Portal.
A History of Addressing Climate Change with Action
Nauru continues to be at the forefront of calling for climate change action by speaking to other nations’ leaders on how to address some of the world’s most complex climate issues. Nauru’s president, Baron Waqa, called for a climate and security envoy to the United Nations last year when representing the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS). The President said, “Our breakdown in global environmental governance is most apparent in our collective failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change represents the single biggest threat to the most vulnerable. Adaptation measures demand an ever-growing share of our resources – money that could be spent on other vital public services like healthcare and education. Climate change threatens to put an end to sustainable development, and in the case of some small islands, our physical existence.”
In 2015, The Republic of Nauru launched its first ever national framework aimed at increasing the Pacific nation’s resilience to climate change and disaster risk.
Nauru’s Framework for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (RONAdapt) was developed through a collaborative effort among various regional organisations and development partners including the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the European Union.
While launching the framework, Nauru’s Minister for Commerce, Industry and Environment, the Hon Aaron Cook, highlighted the fact that the document was the first of its kind in Nauru, and was undertaken as a stakeholder-driven process.
President Waqa was the first Pacific island leader to speak among other world leaders at the Twenty-Second Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016. He called for greater political action and investment in the Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015.