Climate change essay


51countries are classified by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and are further classified into 3 regions: The Pacific, the Pacific and the AIMS (Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea). SIDS share a number of environmental and socio-economic challenges that hamper their development. In this paper, we attempt to review three issues, namely climate change and rising sea levels, natural disasters and waste management and they impact hindering sustainability in SIDS.

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Increasing fuel burning across the world has led to emittion of green house gases (Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide and Methane) into the atmosphere. Drawing from the IPCC report of 2007, carbon dioxide levels have risen from pre-industrial time average levels of 280 parts per million to 379 parts per million in 2005. The rise in green house gases is characterized by: Increased global warming and thus commensurate increase in oceanic temperatures and thermal expansion of oceans (about 1,6millimeters per year) and also the melting water caps have combine and led to the rise in sea level. By 2100, sea levels expected to rise by between 0.18 meters and 0.25 meters’.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change explicitly recognizes that small Island states are the most vulnerable to climate change, albeit having low green house emissions in aggregate and Per Capita.  SIDS populations normally live around or at coastlines, and thus their socio-economic activities take place there. A rising sea level would to worsening coastal conditions by causing massive erosion and salination of Island soils. This would directly impact farming activities and damages to terrestrial forests would bring about the onset of extreme events. Mangrove trees would also be affected and even threatened with extinction if they is a rise of more than 12cm of water in 100 years. Mangroves help in fisheries and prevent sea-surges, thus depletion of their numbers would be costly to Island communities. Tourist locations will also be hampered with due to the eroded or flooded coasts. Upsurge of floods can lead to complete inundation and destruction of important structures, settlements and facilities along the coast. Coral reefs would also be lost due to the rising water. Another consequence would be the loss of fresh water atolls due to salination. Thus the total affect of these effects would be reduced economic production, destruction of eco-systems and social unrest in the locals.

Suitable adaptation measures are needed to counter these effects in SIDS.A number of international regulatory bodies have been formed to address the plight of SIDS. Like the United Nations Framework for Climate control and the Kyoto Protocol that calls for member nations to reduce green house gas emissions.

Simultaneously, adaptation measures have been developed to combat the impact of climate change on SIDS. Two types of adaptations have been propagated: Reactive and Anticipatory each addressing the key vulnerable areas of water, Agriculture and food securities, human health, terrestrial ecosystems and coastal zones. A sample table is below:

Protect groundwater supplies and catchment areas
Use recycled water and conserve catchment areas

Improve management of existing water supplies
Develop flood controls and water policy reforms
Control erosion and construct dams.
Development of drought, pest tolerant crops

Intro. New crops and change planting and harvesting times
Soil water management
Improved housing and emergency response
Develop early warning sign and change housing design
Improve carbon storage in forests
Develop and maintain seed beds
Build sea walls
Develop legislation for coastal planning


Characteristics of Small Island states make them highly vulnerable to natural disasters. Now, vulnerability is termed as the product of physical exposure to natural hazards and the subsequent human capacity to deal with the negative impacts of the disaster. It is of interest that of 25 countries that suffered natural disasters in the 1970s and the 1980s, 13 were small island states. Thus 13 SIDS are ranked in the top 25 most disaster prone countries. In the Caribbean Islands damages incurred in 2004 were estimated to be around 2.2 Billion USD in four countries alone: Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Grenada. SIDS are vulnerable due to a number of things: low availability of resources, geographical isolation, growing population in relatively small land areas, excessive dependence on marine sources and small economies with low diversification in terms of export goods offered. Research has noted that disaster impacts show two different trends: In small Islands large losses experienced from single catastrophic events whereas large Islands with poor economies developed heavy losses from repeated disaster shocks.

Natural disasters tend to impact both the biophysical and human system as seen below

Disrupts marine and land ecosystems
Damage to built environment
Disruption of landscapes
Brings about death and vector-borne diseases
Flood events also cause massive erosions
Changes or disrupts sense of community

To expound on the above, damage to built environments is further classified into three:

(1)    Buildings (residential, commercial):

(2)     Lifelines (gas, water, electricity): An example of is damages in communication following Cyclone Uma (1987) prevented communication between rural areas and the capital of Vanuatu for 10 days.

(3)    Transport (road and truck): an example is the government of Fiji lost a number of key bridges when Cyclone Ami hit in 2003.

Damages on SIDS have been sometimes so severe that massive relocation was required of the local populous as witnessed in Vanuatu Islands in 1971.

There are few studies showing the relationship between SIDS and natural disasters which can give a road map as to how to at least cope with or be prepared when natural disasters happen in SIDS. It has been noted that though most governments, upon the happening of a natural disaster, concentrate their efforts on the national level they should actually be focusing also on what is occurring on the community level. For research as shown that as much as 90% of emergency assistance is supplied through people’s own coping strategies and only 10% from external aid.

Ways forward is for SIDS to have a global outlook in terms of the shifting economic, political relations and technological innovations and stop their nature of insularity thus this will also be commensurate to improving their international trade relations and boosting their economies from being totally dependent on tourism.

Also by being members of international regulatory institutions such as United Nations Framework on Climate Change (FCCC) and the UN’s International Decade for National Disaster Reduction that are leading to development of ways to mitigate future natural disasters.

This will profoundly increase SIDS resilience to future Natural disasters.


Solid waste is described as resources that are considered as redundant, if not hazardous, that are supposed to be discarded. The University of Florida defines solid waste as “garbage, refuse, sludge or other discarded materials, liquids, semi-solids and contained gaseous materials.”

Solid waste management may then be defined as the systematic administration of activities that provide for the source separation, storage, collection, transportation, transfer, processing, treatment and disposal of Solid waste.

In small island states solid waste is marked by poorly located dumps, uncontrolled scavenging, inadequate management and maintenance of dump sites, weak legal and regulatory frameworks, low public education and awareness of SWMs plus low and inadequate waste collection. An example is in the Mediterranean region whereof the 35 million tones of municipal waste produced by countries only 15 % of solid waste managed properly. This in turn affects the islands inhabitants by exposing them to serious health hazards.

This includes vector- borne diseases and can lead to disease out-break due to small sizes of a number of Islands. Another consequence of badly managed SWMs is it can lead to contamination of food as well as water supplies. This then has a direct consequence on local markets food supplies as well as diminishes exports.  Due to Islands small sizes, they can’t afford to have large dump sites, neither can their risk dumping waste into the sea because this will directly affect marine environment and on-shore excursion facilities. All this combine to take away the “ideal relaxation destination” concept most Islands seek to portray to tourists, since scenic views are replaced by ugly dump sites and health warnings about infections and diseases. Thus a great economic dependence of these Islands, tourism, is directly affected.  Thus waste management was identified as a strategic issue at the United Nations General Assembly Special session on sustainable development of SIDS.

This then being identified as an obstacle to sustainable development SIDS have come up with different ways of addressing solid waste management in its member states. In the Caribbean sea, a group by the name the organization of East Caribbean States (OECS) was formed with the objective of reducing loss of economic and environmental resources, reduce risks to human health and satisfy conditions of having Caribbean sea designated special area under MARPOL, an international convention for the prevention of  of pollution from seas. Major elements of OECS are 6 National components and a regional component to SWM.  National component include 7 new landfills and upgrading of 6 already existing landfills, closure of 22 existing dumps and procurement of transportation and collection equipment and vehicles. Thereafter, project implementation units were set up to be responsible for the implementation of these National components. Public awareness of the pollution problem was also carried out. In the pacific region this was done through the Secretariat of the Pacific regional environmental Program (SPREP). SPREP developed a strategy to accurately create an inventory of different type of waste as well as waste recycling.

A general and positive trend in all SIDS is public involvement in waste management so that equitable responsibility can be created in island communities for responsible solid waste management.


Though SIDS face overwhelming obstacles in sustainability brought about by the key issues of

·         Climate change and sea level rise,

·         Natural and environmental disasters

·         Management of Solid wastes.

These factors can be combated by good regional, national and community cooperation to address and mitigate future effects they tend to bring. Also through public awareness and education it enables the public to be involved in decision making and also policy implementation.

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