Published on Let's Talk Development

What do a Pacific Island fisher and a Wall Street banker have in common?

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A: Both of them will be affected by the ongoing effects of climate change.
In less than 40 years from now the cost to the world's biggest coastal cities from flooding is expected to have risen to $1tn – 0.7% of the value of the entire world economy in 2012. Average global flood losses could rise from around $6 billion per year in 2005 to $60 to $63 billion per year by 2050, thanks to population and economic growth along the coasts and the multiplying effect of climate change-driven sea level rise. Coastal communities in the US were firmly reminded of what could happen with rising waters during Superstorm Sandy. The effects of global warming and climate change were no longer academic discussion points, but reality in the form of flooded subways in the heart of Manhattan.

Seemingly a world away, the same issues of global warming are taking hold in the Pacific. Coastal communities in the Pacific region are highly vulnerable to climate change threats—from heat and drought to rising sea levels. These events jeopardize the region’s food supplies and income sources. Particularly vulnerable are the fisheries resources, which provide the main source of both protein and income for people in these communities.  Some effects of the intensifying climate conditions in the coastal and open fisheries are changes in the distribution and abundance of tuna, decline in the extent of coral reefs and coastal fisheries, difficulties in developing aquaculture and rising operating costs for both aquaculture and fisheries in general.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study on Climate Change and Development Strategies for Coastal Communities of the Pacific Coral Triangle Countries, partially funded by the Asian Development Bank, assesses development strategies for the Pacific coral triangle (CT) countries—Fiji, Solomon Islands, Timor‐Leste and Vanuatu—in response to future and projected impacts of climate change on the key coastal and marine resources. It focuses on the population that is dependent on the CT’s coastal resources.
The initial IFPRI findings indicate that given serious food security concern in the region there is a critical need for adaptive strategies with or without climate change.    Pacific Island countries face food insecurity, limited availability of productive agricultural land, and deteriorating coastal and marine biodiversity where communities rely on these resources for food and economic sustainability.  Under a business-as-usual scenario, declines in fish consumption per capita in the urban and rural areas due to reduced supply of fish from coastal fisheries and increasing world food prices will further aggravate food insecurity of the countries.  The research under this project is assessing the alternative adaptation strategies for the fisheries sector to determine how best to meet this challenge.  Low cost fish aggregating devices, establishment of marine protected areas and aquaculture development are some of these alternative adaptation strategies accessible to subsistence and small-scale coastal fishers and coastal communities.  Benefits and costs of these strategies currently being assessed under the IFPRI project.

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