Current Forecast: Tuvalu and a Changing Climate
Rising sea levels and creeping tides routinely engulf the remote Pacific island group, degrading its shoreline, eroding its natural ecosystems and threatening the nation’s very existence.
• The country, in brief. Home to some 11,000 inhabitants, Tuvalu consists of three islands and six low-lying atolls scattered across the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The nation’s highest points reach 4.5 metres (14.8 feet) above sea level. Tuvalu’s outer islands are largely isolated, hindering communication and making it difficult to provide essential supplies in the face of or following weather-related destruction.
• Tuvalu faces an existential threat: a rising tide and more frequent and intense rainfall events threaten to sink the nation in 30 to 50 years. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a 0.9 metres (3 feet) increase in global sea levels by 2100—degrading up to one meter of Tuvalu’s shoreline per year. In Tuvalu specifically, the rise in sea level will increase by up to 18 centimetres (0.6 feet) by 2030. Projections further indicate greater frequency and intensity of rainfall events, including spring tides and tropical cyclones.
• Extreme weather conditions drain the nation’s water resources. Saltwater intrusion that stems from coastal flooding sullies the island’s groundwater reserves, making freshwater nearly impossible to drink. Limited water resources mean residents have, at times, only a cup of water with which to rinse themselves. Elsewhere, persistent droughts mean livestock such as pigs and chickens go thirsty. Plant life and crops also bear the consequences; coconuts, for example, no longer bear fruit.
• Resettlement presents a plausible solution, yet with extreme weather conditions and high costs inhibiting movement, the country has yet to implement a migration plan. To date, only eight per cent of Tuvalu’s residents have relocated in search of higher ground, but 70 per cent say they would consider making the move. But seeking refuge requires financial means. Many Tuvalu residents simply do not have the money.
• For the full country profile, visit the Tuvalu’s page on the Pacific Climate Change Portal.
Barriers to Climate Adaptation: Financing Support
Rising sea levels, coupled with intensified King Tides and coastal flooding, hamper the country’s ability to adapt and respond to the drastic shift in weather patterns. For a nation with a GDP of about £23 million ($37 million), creating a resilient response often comes at a cost that is too steep for the Government and its residents to bear on their own.
In country, the Tuvalu Red Cross Society supports a range of efforts to mitigate the damage of extreme weather events. With limited funds, the society relies largely on volunteers to map out hazards, assist with disaster preparedness and response and facilitate conversations surrounding the impact of and short-term solutions to climate change. The Red Cross Society has coordinated providing satellite phones to Tuvalu’s outer islands, as well as worked with international counterparts to bring the danger Tuvalu and its Pacific Island neighbours face to the forefront of global dialogue.
In 2002, royalties sourced from selling Tuvalu’s .TV domain name helped pay for the tar-sealing and lightening of roads as a protection from ongoing flooding. But the pre-existing lack of drainage limited the return on the nation’s precautionary investment.
The nation joins its Pacific Island neighbours in stressing the need of a concerted global response, while advocating for limiting the rise in global temperature.
Tuvalu is one of 43 nations on the Climate Vulnerable Forum