Climate Change Adaptation on Small Island States: An Assessment of Limits and Constraints
2. Risks and Hazards and Opportunities Associated with Climate Change on SIDS
3. Limits to Adaptation
- Ecological limitation: it refers to situations in which ecosystems and organisms face a decline in functionality and diversity due to their inability to adapt. A vital example of an ecological limit is coral bleaching. Healthy corals are typically able to survive in modestly warm temperatures. However, a slight rise above the average temperature may result in the occurrence of coral bleaching. Continued exposure to these higher temperatures may induce coral mortality . A better understanding of the extent of the ecological limits leads to the proper policy selection based on Barnett’s study , which could form a basis for monitoring changes and communicating conclusions covering all ecological areas.
- Economic limitation: it occurs when the financial costs for adaptation exceed the amount needed to fix the damages brought about by CC. Economic limits are seen, for instance, in adaptations initiatives concerning the rise of sea levels. The cost to protect surrounding areas from rising seas levels may be initially bearable. However, as the sea level rises and claims more areas, the cost of preserving the areas may sometimes exceed the value of the items being protected . Mainly because the cost of damage to critical settlement facilities is even higher, the economic cost for SIDS will be a significant concern. In addition, the costs of rising sea levels will be high as a percentage of GDP, given the small size of SIDS economies .
- Technological limitation: it refers to cases where technology cannot avert the impacts of CC. A significant problem here is the difficulty in monitoring and evaluating some adaptation methods due to the lack of universal metric systems. CC impacts manifest in many ways, and the lack of multilateral systems to monitor adaptation methods is a further limit to adaptation [18,40,41]. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that insufficient technical capability encourages existing technology, providing little room for innovation and improvements. As CC worsens, the demand for low-cost, reliable and long-term technologies will increase. If not addressed, these may lead to adaptation deficits . Mycoo’s  study showed that the use of technology, land-use planning and ecosystem-based adaptation policies would involve drought-proofing Caribbean SIDS. A key conclusion of his research was that, given the limited capacity of human, technical and financial resources, prioritising practical adaptation options is essential for Caribbean SIDS.
- Social limitation: it occurs when people decide that adaptation methods have failed due to their inability to protect things they consider necessary. Adger et al.  suggested that four elements are inherent in any society that limit its effective adaptive response. Successful adaptation experiences resulting from the different social priorities and values could be modified or adapted in a different context. It was found that social limits were observed because adaptation efforts were influenced by external factors , which the local stakeholders cannot influence, such as global warming.
4.1. Data Collection
- SIDS adaptation to climate change in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.
- SIDS limits adaption and barriers.
- SIDS soft and hard limits.
- Typologies of SIDS adaptation limits.
4.2. Qualitative Data Analysis
- The status of policymaking.
- The limits to adaptation experienced.
- Possible opportunities generated.
5.2. The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
5.3. The Cook Islands
5.5. Solomon Islands
6. Discussion: The Opportunities Offered by Climate Change and the Role of Policies
- Emphasis on education: progressive CC could benefit from an increased emphasis placed towards education, thereby strengthening the social and human capital, which can be expected to enhance efforts on in situ and ex-situ adaptation. This suggestion has already been advocated for atoll archipelagic environments elsewhere  and seems broadly transferable to the situation of SIDS generally. Opportunities in this area also include raising grassroots awareness and capacity in areas of community-based adaptation (CBA). This extends from the construction of formal and informal settlements, the type of economic activities considered, correct knowledge on what to do in the event of extreme climate-related events, and the safeguarding in general of community resilience.
- Improved information: when stakeholders and policy-makers are informed of the issues pertinent to their continued survival, they are encouraged to become more engaged. Improved information needs to be accompanied by a systematic change in thinking and acting to facing these challenges in an anticipatory manner, which will take time to implement. Improved information needs to be accompanied by a systematic change in thinking and acting to facing these challenges in an anticipatory manner, which will take time to implement.
- Help to extend the limits to adaptation, reduce the effects of coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, flooding and other phenomena, which currently pose a threat to the economies and livelihoods of inhabitants of small island nations.
- Help alleviate poverty influenced by unsuitable climatic conditions, which negatively influence economic activities and affect human wellbeing.
- Assist in reducing the hardships caused by extreme events, securing livelihoods and assisting in sustainable development.
- Foster territorial integration and cohesion by uniting the various parts of SIDS, which are often conceived in isolation.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Types of Limitation||Descriptions||References|
|1||Ecological limitation||Natural adaptation limitations, related mainly to the natural environment, ranging from ecosystem thresholds to geographical and geological limitations, include ecological and physical limits. There is growing evidence that the resilience of socio-ecological systems will be influenced by both the rate and magnitude of change and the fact that some systems may not be able to adapt to changing climate conditions without having their functional status and system integrity changed dramatically. Lakes, coral reefs, forests and arid lands, for example, have shown that smooth adaptation to change can be disrupted by unexpected and drastic changes in state, implying that an ecosystem’s ability to withstand disturbance has a limit.||[19,45,46,47]|
|2||Economic limitation||In essence, economic limits to adaptation occur when adaptation costs exceed the costs of the averted impacts. The high costs of protecting cities from sea-level rise against the costs of damage from sea-level rise are examples. In general, implementing adaptation measures entails a significant financial investment. Economic limits may also include a cultural aspect as well as a broader social one. For individuals, communities, groups or society as a whole, adaptation may not be culturally desirable. Costs may include both monetary and non-monetary values and the consideration of benefits associated with non-climate change.||[19,47]|
|3||Technological limitation||When the technology to adapt to CC impacts is available but not on the scale required, or when its application on the required scale is practically unfeasible, technological limits to adaptation will take place. Protecting large-scale spatial areas from rising sea levels is one example. Another example could be hard engineering options such as sea walls and groynes with apparent limitations in technical options. If large-scale transplantation is planned, coral transplantation techniques are undoubtedly limited in technology considerations. The deployment location will determine the suitability of any given technology for adaptation, the degree of CC and the country’s or community’s current social, economic and environmental conditions, as well as management practices. If non-climate factors that contribute to CC vulnerability are not addressed, technological adaptation measures may only be partially effective. For example, improving a water supply system technologically to ensure water availability during dry spells will be of limited benefit to those who do not have access to it.||[19,20,48,49,50]|
|4||Social limitation||The social and cultural processes that govern how people react to climate variability and change, whether in the form of prolonged drought, heavier and uncertain rainfall or rising temperatures, are social limitations to CC adaptation. Individuals or groups are prevented from seeking the most appropriate forms of adaptation by social limitations, various processes relating to cognitive and normative restrictions. In this context, the organisation and structure of social institutions are among the most important considerations. The ‘Rule Behaviour Savior’ that govern belief systems, norms and behaviour and organisational structure are taken to represent institutions in this perspective. Social institutions are diverse and can be seen in local farmers’ collectives and indigenous knowledge institutions.||[21,46,47]|
|Country||Populations||Areas (km2)||GDP ($)|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1,366,725||5131||45.148 billion|
|Cook Islands||17,459||236.7||363 million|
|Solomon Islands||652,857||28,400||1.479 billion|
|SIDS||Past Impacts||Projected Future Impacts||Climate Management and Development Plans and Policies|
|SIDS are highly vulnerable to marine climate changes due to their reliance on the sea and the density of people on the coast .|
Slow-onset climatic changes in SLR, regional air and water temperatures (SST) increase compatible with global warming, rainfall and acidification) cause coastal flooding, erosion, saltwater intrusion, habitat and infrastructure loss and damage, food supply shortages, people’s displacement and relocation and vector-borne diseases (VBD) spread [16,24,26].
Extreme weather events (EWEs) such as tropical cyclones (TC), storm surges, droughts and inundation frequently impacted the SIDS over the last few decades [16,24].
|Climate change could modify EWE’s frequency and severity and change the range and prevalence of climate-sensitive diseases, particularly VBDs in all SIDS .|
More peak winds and rainfall will most likely increase significantly in the South Pacific SIDSif average temperatures rise by 2 °C compared to if they only increase by 1.5 °C [24,67].
|National Adaptation Plans/Programmes in Fiji; Solomon Islands; Trinidad and Tobago.|
National Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation in Tonga.
National Sustainable Development Plan in the Cook Islands.
Intended Nationally Determined Contributions–NDCs in all the studied SIDS.
The above plans and policies show that SIDS combines climate adaptation with disasters risks management and community-based approaches to development.
Pacific SIDS encouraged ocean governance and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)  through the NDCs .
|Barbados||SLR: Affected all the studied SIDS, causing coastal erosion in Barbados .||Projected likely changes in temperature (air and SST) and the frequency of extreme events are expected to affect the island highly .||A climate change policy focused on adaptation—as a minimal contributor to global emissions—and mitigation strategies .|
|Cook Islands||Increased SST, SLR andacidification affected coral reefs .||Coral reefs will be affected under current climate change scenarios continues .||The development of climate-disaster risk reduction strategies—due to high exposure to TC—to be effectively mainstreamed into the enactment .|
|Fiji||Extreme events and SLR lead to inundation, declining fishery stocks, agricultural produce and water shortages , whereas droughts associated with El Niño facilitated seawater intrusion .||Projected SLR will likely endure coastal degradation and damage .||National CC policies emphasise relocation from vulnerable areas .|
|Solomon Islands||The high observed SLR (above the world’s average) has permanently inundated parts of the country, leading to communities’relocation [76,77].||Likely increases in SLR, tropical cyclones (inundation) and El Niño occurrence (droughts), and a very likely increase in temperature would heavily impact these vulnerable islands .||Adaptation programs include the IFRC Preparedness for CC Programme (PCCP) and the WWF Climate Witness toolkit. Some approaches are built on traditional practice .|
|Tonga||Both CC and EWES, particularly SLR and the frequent sea-flooding during the rainy and cyclone seasons, affected habitat and people’s wellbeing .||The impacts on coastal communities and the environment associated with increasing SLR around the island over the last few decades combined with EWE’s  will likely increase .||A policy-oriented to achieve the SDGs and Sendai framework objectives [79,80] targets building resilience by 2035 .|
|Trinidad and Tobago||(SST increases and seaweed invasion  affected fisheries and tourism industry .||Drought and sea flooding will likely increase due to temperature increase, SLR and rainfall and TCs reduction. However, the frequency and intensity of TCs will likely increase [16,83].||A “National Climate Change Policy” and “Framework for the Development of a Renewable Energy Policy” to promote mitigation and facilitate diversification of energy systems [84,85].|
|Country||Positive Influences of Climate Change|
|Barbados||The transformation of the energy system into renewable energy would help in the: (i) Intensification of the economy; (ii) Improvement of air quality; (iii) Generation of employment options; and (iv) Community-based cooperation .|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Diversification and establishment of renewable energy technologies .|
Conversion of the current urban focus into climate-smart development  involves incorporating advanced Renewable Energy Technologies into the energy mix .
|Cook Islands||Early germination of mangoes in July .|
40% increase in Skipjack tuna catch rates by 2035; numerous possible employment opportunities also flourish.
Adaptation Projects have enabled communities to restore their traditional farming methods to ensure the constant supply of fresh food.
Climate adaptation Projects promoted gender equality and women’s employment .
|Fiji||Awareness-raising and capacity building activities have endeavoured to engage young people in various ways [91,92].|
The relief and development community of the island has built a perception for a long time that “the best time to build back better and stronger is in the wake of a disaster” [93,94].
|Solomon Islands||The warmer climate and changing rainfall seasons benefitted farmers [79,95]. |
Temperature rise and drought imposed positive influences on people’s agriculture, which allows them to be engaged in planting drought and heat-tolerant crops leading to sustainable agriculture .
Temperature variations have enabled people to adapt better to respiratory diseases and retain better health .
|Tonga||The transformation of the energy system into renewable energy would help in the: (i) Intensification of the economy; (ii) Improvement of air quality; (iii) Generation of employment options and (iv) Community-based cooperation .|
|Country||Possible Opportunities Generated|
|Barbados||The raised SST could be used as an advancement key to the ocean thermal energy conversions technologies [97,98].|
|Trinidad and Tobago||The seaweed invasion could be used as a bioenergy source  and manure for producing better quality seedlings .|
|Cook Islands||The introduction of heat and drought-resistant crops prototypes. Rainwater catchment areas have been invested in promoting agriculture avenues. The maritime sanctuaries are extended, and fishing restrictions are imposed . A new Harbour can endure up to 500 cm in SLR and Category 5 cyclones .|
|Fiji||The Fijian government’s lead role at COP 23 provided an opportunity to access international funding to enhance adaptive capacity .|
|Solomon Islands||New adaptation plans are inspired by the lessons learned from the community-coordinated relocations in coastal proximity .|
The mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction measures should be integrated with the newest (re)construction stages. It was learned that chiefs might be more favourably disposed to their customary owned land for resettlement during the crisis . The economic and development gains may lead to growth, jobs and long-term sustainable and climate resilience.
|Tonga||Addressing climate-related hazards increased economic growth, job offers and long-term resilience [79,103].|
Indigenous knowledge reduces food and water scarcity by storing and planting drought-resistant crops and conserving water [63,64].
Incidentally, the local populace is predominantly Christian by faith ; wherefore, adaptation stakeholders may leverage faith-engaged approaches for effective and locally meaningful responses to climate change .
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Leal Filho, W.; Krishnapillai, M.; Sidsaph, H.; Nagy, G.J.; Luetz, J.M.; Dyer, J.; Otoara Ha’apio, M.; Havea, P.H.; Raj, K.; Singh, P.; Rogers, T.; Li, C.; Boodhan, M.K.; Wolf, F.; Yayeh Ayal, D.; Azadi, H. Climate Change Adaptation on Small Island States: An Assessment of Limits and Constraints. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2021, 9, 602. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9060602
Leal Filho W, Krishnapillai M, Sidsaph H, Nagy GJ, Luetz JM, Dyer J, Otoara Ha’apio M, Havea PH, Raj K, Singh P, Rogers T, Li C, Boodhan MK, Wolf F, Yayeh Ayal D, Azadi H. Climate Change Adaptation on Small Island States: An Assessment of Limits and Constraints. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. 2021; 9(6):602. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9060602Chicago/Turabian Style
Leal Filho, Walter, Murukesan Krishnapillai, Henry Sidsaph, Gustavo J. Nagy, Johannes M. Luetz, Jack Dyer, Michael Otoara Ha’apio, Peni Hausia Havea, Kushaal Raj, Priyatma Singh, Tom Rogers, Chunlan Li, Monica K. Boodhan, Franziska Wolf, Desalegn Yayeh Ayal, and Hossein Azadi. 2021. "Climate Change Adaptation on Small Island States: An Assessment of Limits and Constraints" Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 9, no. 6: 602. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9060602