This blog post was originally uploaded in
Japanese to OPRI's blog
on 29 May 2019.
Hello, everyone. My name is Nagisa Yoshioka and
I’m a newbie researcher of oceans and climate
change issues at the Ocean Policy Research Institute
(OPRI) of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. In this
Ocean Jigsaw Puzzle Piece, I’d like to talk about the
current state of islands and climate change while
introducing the research projects I’m involved in.
■ What is Climate Change Adaptation?
First, I’d like to provide a simple explanation of
Climate Change Adaptation, a field that particularly
interests me. I imagine many of you know that
climate change countermeasures can largely be
categorized into the areas of “mitigation” and
Mitigation-type countermeasures aim to curb climate
change by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
while adaptation-type means minimizing the negative
impacts that climate change has on society. In
developing countries, the question of how people
living in environs more vulnerable to climate
change−due to a shortage of infrastructure or low
economic standards−will adapt to change is a
major issue. What does this mean in terms of how
climate change affects small island countries or
■ Climate change issues facing islands
The industries of people living in coastal regions
depend heavily on marine resources. Fishing and
tourism are typical examples. If marine resources
decline due to climate change, people working in the
fishing industry will experience unstable incomes.
Or, if beautiful coral reefs are lost, the tourism
industry of island countries−often a key industry
−will face difficulties. A decline in industries
caused by the depletion of marine resources is
becoming a major threat to the economies of
coastal countries and island countries. It is also
threatening people’s livelihoods and the food
security of communities.
A fish market in Fiji.
Some fishermen noted they have seen a decline in
their catch recently
(photographed by the author)
Another issue is the growing severity and frequency
of disasters caused by climate change. Such disasters
can be roughly categorized as “extreme weather
events” and “slow-onset events.” In addition to
damages from abnormal weather, such as larger
typhoons and localized torrential rain, there is
concern that more disasters such as rising sea
level and drought will threaten people’s livelihoods
in the future.. The impacts from such disasters
include not only human and property damage,
but also the loss of land where people live.
A beach in the Marshall Islands.
The palm tree fell over due to coastal erosion.
(photographed by the author)
Countermeasures from various perspectives are
needed for people living on islands to adapt to these
risks from climate change. Below, I’d like to quickly
introduce topics OPRI is exploring in terms of climate
change adaptation for Pacific island countries.
■ Recognition of climate change risks to oceans
First, recognizing the type of risk is key to determining
the right investment and policy action. For example,
the negative impacts that climate change will have
on marine resources and people’s living environments
need to be understood based on scientific evidence.
Admirably, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on the
Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate in
Now is an excellent time for society to develop a
deeper understanding of climate change risks facing
the world’s oceans. This fiscal year, OPRI will begin
joint research on the theme of “ocean risks and
climate change security” with the Stimson Center in
Washington D.C. This research will involve creating
an index and mapping both climate change and ocean
■ Disaster risk reduction in coastal areas
Countermeasures against disaster risks have become
an important issue for small island countries and
coastal countries to help empower coastal
communities to combat natural disasters such as
typhoons and high tides. In addition, there is a
growing worldwide movement to increase resilience
to disasters by sharing knowledge and technology
related to disaster risk reduction. Recently, I took
part in the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
(GPDRR) held in Geneva, Switzerland as an observer.
Organized by the United Nations Office for Disaster
Risk Reduction (UNDRR), this conference is held once
every two years following the Sendai Framework for
Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 established in
2015. I felt there is growing interest in
ecosystem-based DRR, or Eco-DRR, that utilizes
natural ecosystems as a focal point of discussion on
oceans and coasts. Eco-DRR involves such activities
as mitigating risk of tsunamis and high tides by
fostering the growth of mangrove forests. It is being
promoted to increase resilience while safeguarding
ecosystems along with vibrant food resources of
coastal communities. The number of good practices
involving such initiatives and the sharing of knowledge
worldwide is expected to increase going forward.
OPRI will continue to research cases in Japan and
in Pacific island countries.
Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
held in Geneva
(photographed by the author)
■ Migration induced by rising sea level
As discussed above, small island countries,
particularly atoll countries, such as Kiribati,
the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and the Maldives,
face such problems as land erosion from rising
sea levels. There are growing concerns in the
international community that people living in
these countries will be relocated to other lands.
Meanwhile, legislation for the protection of climate
change refugees has been slow to develop because
the factors for relocation are complex and
intertwined, as well as politically sensitive.
Given this situation, there are growing voices that
migration should not be forced, but rather optional.
OPRI launched research on climate-induced migration
issues from last fiscal year. We are now studying the
issues facing people living on atolls migrating to
another country and the type of international
assistance needed to facilitate migration with dignity.
Most of these people migrating do so for education or
career purposes. Still, in case more people relocate to
other countries in the future due to rising sea levels,
it will be important to achieve “migration with dignity”
(a concept advocated by Anote Tong, Kiribati’s former
■ Financing for Pacific island countries
The discussion of financing is essential to combating
the ocean risks introduced here. However, it remains
difficult to mobilize funds for countermeasures against
uncertain events such as climate change. One major
issue is how to create incentives for investors.
For example, decisions on investments in disaster risk
reduction cannot be made without the recognition
that the costs for reducing risks in advance can be
fully offset by the reduction of losses from damages
caused by actual disasters.
Furthermore, there are many cases where developing
countries find it extremely difficult to secure and
allocate enough funds internally to the field of disaster
risk reduction. Therefore, discussions must be held on
how to draw funds from around the world for building
resilience. This will require identification of funding
gaps and utilization of innovative financial tools.
OPRI is also researching these risks and financing
schemes, with the goal to provide policy
recommendations on how to address financing
issues of island countries that are particularly
vulnerable to coasted disasters.
This concludes my introduction of OPRI’s research
on climate change adaptation. Each of these examples
is an exploratory study that has only just begun.
We will continue to share research outcomes with
society for a sustainable future for the world’s oceans
The Ocean Policy Research Institute