Current Forecast: New Caledonia and a Changing Climate
New Caledonia’s climate is tropical, with a hot and humid season from November to March with temperatures between 27 °C and 30 °C, and a cooler, dry season from June to August with temperatures between 20 °C and 23 °C. The rainfall records show that precipitation differs greatly within the island. The 3,000 millimetres (120 in) of rainfall recorded in Galarino are three times the average of the west coast. There are also dry periods, because of the effects of El Niño. Between December and April, tropical depressions and cyclones can cause winds to exceed a speed of 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph), with gusts of 250 kilometres per hour (160 mph) and very abundant rainfall.
The Diahot River is the longest river of New Caledonia, flowing for some 100 kilometres. Most of the island is covered by wet evergreen forests, while savannahs dominate the lower elevations The New Caledonian lagoon, with a total area of 24,000 square kilometres, is one of the largest lagoons in the world. It is surrounded by the New Caledonia Barrier Reef.
• The country, in brief: The country is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, 1,210 km east of Australia and 16,136 km east of Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets. New Caledonia has the richest diversity in the world per square kilometre due to a central mountain range located in the Grand Terre, which creates landforms and microclimates where biodiversity thrives. The country has one of the largest economies among South Pacific island states due to an increase in nickel exports as well as strong support from France.
• Environmental threats to the New Caledonian barrier reef. The New Caledonian barrier reef is the second-longest double-barrier coral reef in the world. While most of the reefs are considered to be in good health, in January 2002 the French government proposed listing the reef as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its threatened marine species. The reef is monitored by 13 local management committees to ensure that the health of the reef continues. However, intensified erosion during cyclone flood continues due to rising sea temperatures and loss of coastal habitats.
• Future cyclone disasters pose existential threat and call for more resilient cities and communities. Six of the ten countries with the greatest proportion of their assets at risk to cyclone wind damage are small island states. The 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction has reported that future disaster losses represent an existential threat to Pacific island nations, undermining efforts to eradicate poverty and build resilient cities and communities. The expected annual disaster losses are equivalent to almost 20 percent of their total social expenditure on areas like health and education.
• Rising sea levels will take their toll. A study just released by the Inter-American Development Bank states that 4.2 million people on small islands in the Caribbean and Pacific are prone to flooding due to rising sea levels. 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. The same Inter-American Development Bank study identified the recent El Niño episode, occurring on the back of the effects of climate change, as brining severe drought and floods to many Pacific islands, with marked consequences for food security. This causes extraordinary loss for low-income areas that depend on industries such as fishing. As oceans continue to warm, certain fish will migrate to cooler conditions and nutrient-rich waters.
Resilience to Cyclones in New Caledonia
Like other island states, New Caledonia faces the formidable challenge of building both resistance and resilience to violent storms. In May 2017, Vanuatu and New Caledonia were both hit by Cyclone Donna, which struck outside the so-called normal Pacific Cyclone season. There was also the unusual phenomenon of Cyclone Ella forming at the same time. The archipelago has long been affected by these kinds of storms, which have the potential to cause irreversible damage, but they now are generally stronger and occur outside the normal cyclone season. Increasing vulnerabilities in these areas can have long-lasting consequences for recovery and overall development.
New Caledonia’s Response to Climate Change
In May of this year, New Caledonia announced it is hosting the 20th Pasifika Medical Association Conference in September 2017. The conference, “Pacific Health Realities; The Way Forward” will be held cover a wide range of topics including Health Security, Climate Change and Health, Universal Health Coverage, Human Resources for Health and Using Research to Make Better Decisions. More information is available at http://pacifichealth.org.nz.
Just over a year ago, 13 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific were among the first countries in the world to sign the Paris Agreement. Together they account for 0.02 percent of greenhouse gas emissions but are among those who stand to lose the most from climate change.
The SIDS have taken the lead in ensuring coherence in their approach to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development creating clear links between the Sendai Framework, the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.