While no individual storm or heat wave can be directly tied to climate change, there is little doubt that higher global temperatures will lead to more frequent and more intense extreme weather events. Fueled by higher sea-surface temperatures, the IPCC projects hurricanes and cyclones of the future to reach higher wind speeds and bring with them more rain. The heat waves that struck Europe in 2003 and 2006 and killed tens of thousands of people will increasingly seem less like freak natural disasters and more like typical summer weather. Extended multi-year droughts are also expected to occur over larger portions of the globe in the coming century.
Small Island States are much more exposed to extreme weather events and climate variability than most countries. Low lying islands offer little refuge to their inhabitants from incoming storms and are especially vulnerable to powerful storm surges. Rising sea level amplifies these dangers, propagating storm damage further inland. Flooding from heavy rainfall can produce dangerous mudslides. Rebuilding damaged infrastructure is also more difficult and more expensive for Small Island States, taxing their limited budgets. A single storm can cripple large portions of an island’s economy and leave its people at the mercy of foreign aid.
Droughts are also particularly devastating for small islands. Many islands rely on regular rainfall to recharge their limited groundwater resources. When there is too little rain (or too much at one time), these reservoirs are quickly depleted, threatening food and water security. | more