Higher temperatures, stronger typhoons, coral reef loss, and coastal flooding are among the major challenges detailed in a new report by the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) on climate change in the Republic of Palau. Threatened resources include low-lying coastal infrastructure and the millions of dollars that ocean ecosystems add to Palau’s economy annually.
Climate Change in Palau: Indicators and Considerations for Key Sectors is the first in a series of new PIRCA reports. Authors from the Republic of Palau’s Office of Climate Change, the Coral Reef Research Foundation, the Palau International Coral Reef Center, and the East-West Center—along with 30 technical contributors from government and nongovernmental organizations, research, and community groups—collaboratively developed the Palau PIRCA report. The report builds upon the US Fourth National Climate Assessment, offering a closer look at climate change impacts in Palau and providing information for a wide range of sectors.
“We need to be informed of the environmental shifts occurring in Palau as a result of increased global warming. These shifts have and will continue to influence our livelihoods. Therefore, making informed decisions from the best available science is vital and the catalyst for appropriate planning and effective resilience building. This report provides a glimpse of key issues that we need to be aware of and what they mean for Palau. Moreover, it serves as a guide with suggestions to enhance our resilience to climate change.”Mr. Erbai Xavier Matsutaro, Palau’s National Climate Change Coordinator
Climate Change in Palau lays out the changes Palau is already experiencing, and what lies ahead. The key messages for decision-makers include:
- Air temperatures have risen in Palau, and hotter days and nights affect human health. Heatwaves can exacerbate a range of pre-existing health issues, and hot weather poses a particular threat to children and elderly people.
- Oceans are warming, causing the conditions for coral bleaching events to become more common and severe. If current trends in rising ocean temperatures continue, Palau is likely to experience widespread coral bleaching in the next two decades. Coral reefs provide habitat for fish, coastal protection from storms, and bring tens of millions of dollars annually into the local economy.
- Sea level rise threatens low-lying coastal infrastructure, including schools and transportation, as well as ecosystems and cultural sites.
- Stronger typhoons are expected globally and around Palau. More intense tropical cyclones that pack higher wind speeds and more rainfall mean a greater potential for loss of life and damage from these storms.
“This report is a wake-up call for all of us. We see what the future looks like and we need to take action to mitigate and build our resilience. The cost of inaction is too high.”Dr. Yimnang Golbuu, Chief Executive Officer of the Palau International Coral Reef Center
Dr. Patrick Colin of the Coral Reef Research Foundation has been tracking the rise in ocean water temperatures around Palau for the last 20 years and has found, despite great year to year variability, that near surface waters are warming at a rate of about 0.2 degree C (half a degree Fahrenheit) every decade. Dr. Colin warns that, “While that may not seem like a great amount of warming, it takes the temporary rise of a few degrees for a few months to induce a coral bleaching event.”