Current Forecast: Niue and a Changing Climate
Niue is situated on the boundary of the southern tropical cyclone belt – which is an increasingly dangerous location. Historically, the island has experienced cyclones about every four years, with one in the severe category every 10 years.
However, that forecast is changing with dangerous consequences. Any rise in sea level threatens the country’s underground freshwater supplies and negatively impacts food security, infrastructure, tourism, health care and the economy as a whole.
• The country, in brief. Niue is a small island nation in the South Pacific with a land area of 100 square miles and a population of fewer than 2,000 people. Changes in the Pacific climate, coupled with the region’s vulnerability, has increasingly put Niue’s economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being and security at serious risk. Niue is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand. Its entire population are citizens of New Zealand, but they represent themselves as an island nation politically, internationally and culturally.
• Adapting to the new normal. The people have no choice but to adapt and prepare for the effects of climate change to minimize the loss of property, crops, businesses, live-stock and, most importantly, human life. One critical step the country has taken is to form a Climate Change Unit. This division will be responsible for all plans and programs in matters relating to climate change.
• Climate change and health: confronting new challenge. Niue has created a Climate Change & Health Plan to address and prioritize preparations and activities in the health sector to address issues brought on by climate change.
• Putting a breakthrough green-based economy at risk. Niue is the largest and highest raised coral atoll in the world. It is also the first country on the globe with plans to become fully organic. In this way, Niue is a pioneer and leader in green growth. It is also transitioning to solar power. With increased tidal rising, high winds and cyclones, these innovations – breakthrough in this area of the world – are being put at serious risk.
• Cash crops that provide livelihood are dying. A large portion of Niue is covered by tropical forest. The country’s main industry is subsistence farming and fishing. Those are backed secondarily by cash crops and processed foods. Yet agricultural expansion has been achieved at the cost of deforestation. This creates a double-edged sword: While there’s more land for farming, that land is left more exposed to devastation from climate-change induced cyclones due to its lack of protection.
• Steps to move back to “Rock Solid.” Niue is one of the world’s largest coral islands. It is known as “The Rock” within the region. In recent years, increased debris caused by rising winds, tides and waves has littered this “protective coral wall” and threatens what is a critical feeding ground for fish and other marine life. Damage to coral reefs from large debris in the water caused by severe weather pose a serious threat to Niue’s ecosystem.
• For the full country profile, visit the Niue’s page on the Pacific Climate Change Portal.