New tool helps Vanuatu face up to climate change

| November 18, 2023

A comprehensive suite of resources for managing climate change risk in Vanuatu has been unveiled today, making critical climate information readily accessible to decision-makers in government, industry and local communities.

The Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal’s tools include global and regional climate projections (at varying spatial scales) for multiple climate hazards including rainfall, temperature, sea level rise, tropical cyclones (including extreme winds), marine heatwaves and ocean acidification.The information will help inform adaptation, planning and support decision making for agricultural, infrastructure, fisheries, tourism and water industries.

It was established through a partnership between Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department (VMGD), and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) as part of the Climate Information Services For Resilient Development In Vanuatu (Van-KIRAP) project.

Mr Sunny Seuseu, Acting Manager, Van-KIRAP with SPREP in Vanuatu, said Vanuatu’s climate is changing and more is on the way.

“With no time to waste, we’ve worked closely with end-users to understand what information they need to put their adaptation plans into action,” Mr Seuseu said.

“Regardless of where you live in Vanuatu, or where you work, the new portal can help answer questions such as for the agriculture sector like, ‘how will the growing region contract or expand over time for different crops?’, ‘what should be grown where and when’, ‘where should we build new infrastructure?’ and ‘what practical steps can our community take now to adapt?’”

“This is a game changer for planners in Vanuatu and will help farmers, fishers, tourist operators, infrastructure managers and the whole community plan ahead and adapt to the realities of climate change,” Mr Seuseu said.

“As an example, you can now click on a map of the country and find out what the temperature and rainfall will be at a particular time at a particular location, now and into the future,” he said.

Vanuatu’s average annual temperature has increased by around 0.7 °C since the pre-industrial period, and sea surface temperatures are increasing, along with rainfall and other extreme events. Sea-level rise is a pressing concern at 10-15 cm since 1993. Tropical cyclones have also become more intense, while expected to decrease in overall annual frequency.

These continued changes are expected to exacerbate existing challenges from climate change such as impacts on food and water security, displacement of coastal communities, and damage to critical infrastructure, ecosystems and related coastal resources. Adaptation strategies such as strengthening infrastructure and regularly assessing long-term climate risk in vulnerable communities can help Vanuatu cope with the impacts of climate change.

CSIRO project lead Dr Geoff Gooley said the project was an exemplar of best practice in the Pacific when it comes to putting climate information in the hands of those who need it most.

“We’ve learnt a lot through this unique collaboration with our partners in Vanuatu about how we develop, apply, and deliver tailored and targeted climate information,” Dr Gooley said.

“We were guided by our partners through the project to focus on user needs, and to iterate on what has worked previously and what hasn’t.

“Our team is proud to have delivered a product that will be so tangible and useful to its end-users.”

The VMGD will host the Van-KIRAP portal and use it as their primary operational tool to deliver tailored national and regional climate information.

An extensive range of sector-specific case study reports and spatial visualisation tools, as well as user guides and videos are also available on the Portal to support adaptation activities.

Ms Moirah Matou, Van-KIRAP project manager said access to accurate, up-to-date information about Vanuatu’s climate is especially important for Vanuatu’s sectoral decision-makers.

“The Climate Futures Portal is now making it easy for sectors in Vanuatu to integrate climate information into long-term sector planning, policies and design guides, and it’s helping to ensure sustainable investments – all of which is strengthening climate resilience development in Vanuatu.”

“As an example, the infrastructure sector is able to readily extract information to inform climate change risk with extreme sea levels causing coastal inundation of roads, bridges and drainage systems.”

Explore the Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal.