finding 23.5 : effects-of-human-island-migration

Mounting threats to food and water security, infrastructure, and public health and safety are expected to lead to increasing human migration from low to high elevation islands and continental sites, making it increasingly difficult for Pacific Islanders to sustain the region’s many unique customs, beliefs, and languages.



This finding is from chapter 23 of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: A central component of the assessment process was convening three focus area workshops as part of the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA). The PIRCA is a collaborative effort aimed at assessing the state of climate knowledge, impacts, and adaptive capacity in Hawai‘i and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands. These workshops included representatives from the U.S. federal agencies, universities, as well as international participants from other national agencies and regional organizations. The workshops led to the formulation of a foundational Technical Input Report (TIR).7350d7b3-6e95-4375-ba23-26756b441fc2 The report consists of nearly 140 pages, with almost 300 references, and was organized into 5 chapters by 11 authors. The chapter author team engaged in multiple technical discussions via regular teleconferences that permitted a careful review of the foundational TIR7350d7b3-6e95-4375-ba23-26756b441fc2 and of approximately 23 additional technical inputs provided by the public, as well as the other published literature, and professional judgment. These discussions included a face-to-face meeting held on July 9, 2012. These discussions were supported by targeted consultation among the lead and contributing authors of each message. There were several iterations of review and comment on draft key messages and associated content.

Description of evidence base: Climate change threatens communities, cultures, and ecosystems of the Pacific Islands both directly through impact on food and water security, for example, as well as indirectly through impacts on economic sectors including fisheries and tourism. On most islands, increased temperatures, coupled with decreased rainfall and increased drought, will lead to an additional need for freshwater resources for drinking and crop irrigation.6eb1ee99-0b99-452a-a8cb-48b961fd4ac5 ca2a1adf-0f5a-4838-aa81-fc0c44f50369 c600849a-ed32-4109-a103-1571e136f0b6 This is particularly important for locations in the tropics and subtropics where observed data and model projections suggest that, by the end of this century, the average growing season temperatures will exceed the most extreme seasonal temperatures recorded from 1900 to 2006. Atolls will be particularly vulnerable due to their low elevation, small land mass, geographic isolation, and limited potable water sources and agricultural resources.15a85bcf-1235-4258-860c-24948df66935 The situation will also be exacerbated by the increased incidence of intrusion of saltwater from the ocean during storms as the mean sea level rises over time. These are but part of a cascade of impacts that will increase the pressures on, and threats to, the social and ecosystem sustainability of these island communities.dcfdf5ac-81c1-4eed-ae50-258a9086b9b5 On high islands like Hawai‘i, decreases in precipitation and baseflowa7bc5b58-4952-4499-9285-af61da992262 are already indicating that there will be impacts on freshwater ecosystems and aquatic species and on water-intensive sectors such as agriculture and tourism. Increasing mean oceanic and coastal water levels and the possibility of more frequent extreme water level events with flooding and erosion, will escalate the threat to coastal structures and property, groundwater reservoirs, harbor operations, airports, wastewater systems, sandy beaches, coral reef ecosystems, and other social and economic resources. Impacts will vary with location depending on how natural sea level variability combines with modest increases of mean levels.6fd7abfe-17d7-49a9-bc90-bf85fa4041d3 On low-lying atolls, critical public facilities and infrastructure as well as private commercial and residential property are especially vulnerable. Agricultural activity will also be affected, as sea level rise decreases the land area available for farming6aa21d2e-f2dc-45b6-9815-bf1132eba02c and episodic inundation increases salinity of groundwater resources. With respect to cultural resources, impacts will extend from the loss of tangible artifacts and structures06f42044-ef11-45ad-8df5-4eabf2cd4e2f to the intangible loss of a land base and the cultural traditions that are associated with it.11cbe03d-0255-4abb-9b77-498e9ebd4500

New information and remaining uncertainties: Whenever appraising threats to human society, it is uncertain the degree to which societies will successfully adapt to limit impact. For island communities, though, the ability to migrate is very limited, and the ability to adapt is especially limited. Depending on the scale and distance of the migration, a variety of challenges face the migrants and the communities receiving them. Migrants need to establish themselves in their new community, find employment, and access services, while the receiving community’s infrastructure, labor market, commerce, natural resources, and governance structures need to absorb a sudden burst of population growth.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Evidence for climate change and impacts is strong, but highly variable from location to location. One can be highly confident that climate change will continue to pose varied threats in the region. Adaptive capacity is also highly variable among the islands, so the resulting situation will play out differently in different places. Confidence is therefore medium.

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