Climate Change and the Pacific Islands

Expand/Collapse Climate Change and the Pacific Islands

Communities in the Pacific Islands are already feeling the impacts of sea level rise, extreme weather events, and other evidence of climate change. The media resources in this collection examine ecosystems on volcanic high islands and low-lying atolls and the climate-related threats to these ecosystems. They also highlight human activities that strengthen or weaken ecosystems, as well as actions that islanders are taking to reduce the threats they face and help preserve their future.

  • An Ancient Legend Teaches Climate Change Adaptation

    Today's unsustainable use of natural resources is compared to the legend of the giant Uab. Uab, a boy who grew into a giant as he ate everything around him, became so heavy that the island he lived on began to sink. His appetite caused other problems, including a change in weather patterns and damage to coral reefs. Left with no choice, the islanders eventually killed Uab. This legend mirrors what is happening today globally and in the Pacific Island region: the unsustainable use of land, marine, and freshwater resources is having unwanted effects. In response, Palau is taking steps to help conserve natural resources for future generations.

    Grades: 3-8,13+
  • Climate Change Threatens Pacific Paradise

    Learn how climate change has impacted food and freshwater resources on the Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea in these two videos adapted from UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative and Pacific Black Box, Inc. Video 1: Nicholas Hakata explains that flooding carries sand inland, creates mosquito breeding grounds, destroys property, and causes starvation. His fellow islanders discuss relocating the community. Video 2: Carteret Island teenager Jerryanne Hugo talks about the crop destruction and water shortage caused by sea level rise.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Conserving a Unique Ecosystem in Micronesia | Micronesia Conservation Trust

    Learn about the steps that the people of Kosrae, Micronesia, are taking to protect their natural resources. With a variety of ecosystems from ridgetop to coral reef, the Yela watershed demonstrates how a healthy ecological relationship functions. Only pure, pollution-free water runs out to the ocean, and its Ka tree forest provides lumber for building houses and canoes. The Yela watershed is one of Micronesia's best examples of ecosystem-based adaptation. Today, through an agreement called a conservation easement, the watershed remains undeveloped so that it may continue to benefit Kosrae residents and the area's future generations.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • From Ridge to Reef: Adapting to a Changing Climate

    Explore Pacific high island and atoll ecosystems, learn about the threats to island resources and residents, and discover how communities are preserving their future, in this interactive activity adapted from the Micronesia Conservation Trust. These ecosystems -- terrestrial, coastal, and reef -- provide many services to island communities. However, they also face threats from both human activities and climate change. The interactive activity details the services and the threats. It also provides real-life examples of Pacific Island communities that are already experiencing changes and taking action. These actions, or adaptations, are designed to strengthen their ecosystems and the overall resilience of their island. This resource is part of the Climate Change and the Pacific Islands collection.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Micronesia's Changing Climate | Micronesia Conservation Trust

    Discover what Pacific Island communities can do to reduce the impact of climate change in these four videos. In "The Problem," fishermen discuss why things are "not right" in Micronesia; for example, fish stocks are declining and coral reefs are dying. In "The Cause," we learn that these effects are linked to global climate change. In "The Greenhouse Effect," we learn more about the science behind climate change. In "Adaptation," we see how Micronesians are trying to reduce the harmful effects of climate change to preserve their homeland and secure their heritage.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Pacific Islands Benefit from Climate Change Adaptations

    People from the Mbuke and Whal islands discuss the impacts climate change is having on their communities and the steps they are taking to adapt in these three videos from The Nature Conservancy. In "Pacific Islands Benefit from Climate Change Adaptations", islanders store foods in case of drought and learn to grow alternative crops. In "Fishing Bans", a ban on net fishing close to shore will hopefully protect fish populations. In "Mangroves", a replanting program will hopefully help save the coastline from erosion and bring back fish and mud crabs. Note: This video includes native languages and is subtitled in English.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Resilience and Ecosystem Adaptation in a Changing Pacific Climate

    In this lesson plan, students explore Pacific Island ecosystems, the threats they face from human activities and climate change, how adaptation strategies can increase ecosystem resilience. They then engage in community-focused activities. High island and coral atoll communities in the Pacific Island region face unique challenges in a changing climate.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Restoring Wetlands in Hawai'i

    As wetlands continue to disappear, the islanders who depend on them for food or income from tourism will suffer even more. But with improved wetland management practices, Pacific islands will be better able to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Learn how Hawai'i's wetlands help reduce the effects of climate change in this video from the Hawai'i Nature Center.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Sustainable Pacific Island Watersheds

    Explore Pacific Island watersheds in these videos adapted from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. In the first video, Micronesians explain how important a balanced ecosystem is to their culture and livelihoods. We learn that changes to the Nett watershed on the island of Pohnpei are harming the water supply, coral reefs, and fisheries, and that climate change may further threaten these resources. By working together to manage the watershed and the human activities that affect it, Micronesians can improve both public and environmental health. The animation describes the three zones that make up a high island watershed.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Sustaining Freshwater Lenses

    Explore some of the threats to the freshwater supply on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands, in this video adapted from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. All of Majuro's fresh water comes from a surface catchment basin at the airport or from a natural underground formation called a freshwater lens on the western part of the atoll. Islanders explain how pumping too much water from the lens and how human waste can endanger the supply. They also describe how the local protection committee studies how certain human activities and chemicals affect the lens. Note: This video includes native languages and is subtitled in English.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Micronesia's Changing Climate | Sustaining Healthy Coral Reefs in Micronesia

    Learn about coral reefs and how changing environments impact them, in these two videos adapted from the Micronesia Conservation Trust. The first video explores how disturbance events (such as coral bleaching, typhoons, and starfish infestation) and land-based pollution affect the coral reefs of Micronesia. Marine biologist Peter Houk explains his research on increasing the resiliency of reefs through ecosystem-based adaptation. The second video looks at the relationship between climate change and reef health. Scientists and community leaders in Ngarchelong, in northern Palau, describe local efforts to protect their marine resources.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Carbon Dioxide and the Carbon Cycle

    Explore how human activities alter the carbon cycle and cause atmospheric carbon dioxide to increase. Learn about the reservoirs and flows of the carbon cycle and how human activities increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and ocean. This increased atmospheric carbon dioxide causes global warming.

    Two succeeding interactives from the Pacific Islands Climate Education Partnership and WGBH show how higher carbon dioxide levels cause global warming (Earth's Energy Flows and Climate) and highlight climate change impacts and adaptation strategies for ecosystems and human communities (Impacts of Climate Change in the Pacific Region). 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Earth's Energy Flows and Climate

    Learn how Earth's climate results from the ways that energy enters, circulates within, and flows out of the Earth system. Explore the flows of energy in regional locations and then at the global level to understand how the increased greenhouse effect causes global warming. 

    An introductory interactive (Carbon Dioxide and the Carbon Cycle) from the Pacific Islands Climate Education Partnership and WGBH explains the factors leading to an increased greenhouse effect. The concluding interactive in this series (Impacts of Climate Change in the Pacific Region) illustrates impacts of climate change and adaptation strategies for ecosystems and human systems.  


    Grades: 6-12
  • Impacts of Climate Change in the Pacific Region

    Explore four impacts of climate change—sea level rise, higher air and ocean temperatures, changing rain patterns, and ocean acidification— that can cause major damage. Learn how ecosystems and human system services are affected by these four impacts, and explore how climate adaptation strategies can reduce the damage caused by climate change.

    This concluding interactive from the Pacific Islands Climate Education Partnership and WGBH builds on two prior interactives, Carbon Dioxide and the Carbon Cycle and Earth's Energy Flows and Climate.

    Grades: 5-12