Current Forecast: Solomon Islands and a Changing Climate
The future of human habitation and agricultural production in Solomon Islands depends on its ability to adapt to and mitigate temperature increase, sea-level rise, warming seas, and overexploitation.
• The country, in brief. The Republic of Solomon Islands consists of more than 900 islands, six of which are continuously inhabited. The Islands are part of the larger collection of the Solomon Islands archipelago that also includes the North Solomon Islands, part of Papua New Guinea. There are about 642,000 inhabitants. Tourism, subsistence agriculture, fishing, and resource exports are the main drivers of Solomon Islands’ economy. The main exports are timber, copra, and palm oil. Solomon Islands contains two district terrestrial eco-regions: Solomon Islands rain forests eco-region and the Vanuatu rain forests eco-region. The country contains active and dormant volcanoes, which provide nutrient-rich volcanic soil.
• Temperature increase threatens agriculture. There has been an increase in temperatures between 0.12 and 0.18 degrees Centigrade per decade since the 1950s. This increase threatens agricultural production, including the main exports of copra and palm oil. In addition, the increase in temperatures threatens subsistence agriculture production for the local people, endangering food security.
• Sea-level rise threatens agriculture and settled areas. The sea level has risen an average of 8 mm per year, well above global projections. The rise threatens local communities as the majority of Solomon Islanders live near the coastline at sea level. The higher ground in Solomon Islands is volcanic and mountainous, ill-suited for human habitation and agricultural production. Coastal flooding has increased, with the Western province, the Roviana region, especially at risk due to its population density.
• Warming seas threaten fishing. Coral reefs and the larger surrounding areas are under threat from the rapid increase of acidity levels in sea water. With temperatures and acidification expected to continue increasing, migratory patterns may be altered and local reef populations may die out, negatively impacting the fishing industry and exports.
• Timber overexploitation. The harvesting and logging of timber is past the point of overexploitation. Logging began in the 1930s and has continued at an increasing pace. In 2005, the export of round log reached 1 million cubic metres, four times the sustainable allowable cut limit estimated by the government and outside observers. A national inventory took place in 2006 to assess the timber market. The Inventory predicted a rapid and complete depletion of timber by 2015. A majority of the citizens of Solomon Islands used timber to cook with and heat their homes, an activity that has now been virtually eliminated. The depletion of local forests may alter local watersheds and increase the risk of flooding for local communities. The lack of windbreak provided by forests also exposes cleared land and villages to stronger winds, endangering agriculture and putting settled areas at greater risk in storms.
• For the full country profile, visit Solomon Islands’ page on the Pacific Climate Change Portal.
The Republic of Solomon Islands is working with the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy to focus on resilience and mitigation under the Roviana Climate Change Resilience Plan 2013-2017. The plan intends to map the vulnerability of marine and coastal habitats to climate change; assess coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove health; survey coral bleaching and disease; measure water quality and flow; document coastal gardens and forests and identify issues affecting the adaptive capacity of the people.