Palau Faces Stronger Storms, Hotter Weather, and Threats to Ecosystems, Says New Pacific RISA-led Climate Change Report

  • 27 October 2020

Super Typhoon Haiyan caused extensive damage on Kayangel Island (pictured) in 2013. Stronger tropical storms and typhoons are expected globally and around Palau due to climate change. (Photo courtesy of Patrick L. Colin, Coral Reef Research Foundation).

Higher temperatures, stronger typhoons, coral reef loss, and coastal flooding are among the major challenges detailed in a new report, led by members of CPO's Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment team (Pacific RISA) and co-supported by CPO's Assessments Program, 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, according to the report. Titled Climate Change in Palau: Indicators and Considerations for Key Sectors, the report builds upon the Fourth National Climate Assessment, providing the Republic of Palau a closer look at the implications of climate variability and change 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,” said Mr. Erbai Xavier Matsutaro, Palau’s National Climate Change Coordinator. “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."

The report is the first in a series prepared by the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA), a consortium of government, NGO, and research entities, in collaboration with 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.

Key Messages

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 preexisting 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,” said Dr. Yimnang Golbuu, Chief Executive Officer of the Palau International Coral Reef Center.

The collective efforts of the technical contributors, coordinating authors, and PIRCA Advisory Committee made the Palau PIRCA report possible. PIRCA is funded and supported by CPO's RISA Program, the East-West Center, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. In conjunction with other regional assessment efforts, the PIRCA provides guidance for decision-makers seeking to better understand how climate variability and change impact the Pacific Islands region and its peoples.

This article was adapted from a press release written by the East-West Center.

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