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Exposure of coastal built assets in the South Pacific to climate risks


Pacific island countries (PICs) are situated in a highly dynamic ocean–atmosphere interface, are dispersed over a large ocean area, and have highly populated urban centres located on the coastal margin1. The built infrastructure associated with urban centres is also located within close proximity to the coastlines, exposing such infrastructure to a variety of natural and climate change-related hazards. In this research we undertake a comprehensive analysis of the exposure of built infrastructure assets to climate risk for 12 PICs. We show that 57% of the assessed built infrastructure for the 12 PICs is located within 500 m of their coastlines, amounting to a total replacement value of US$21.9 billion. Eight of the 12 PICs have 50% or more of their built infrastructure located within 500 m of their coastlines. In particular, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu have over 95% of their built infrastructure located within 500 m of their coastlines. Coastal adaptation costs will require substantial financial resources, which may not be available in developing countries such as the PICs, leaving them to face very high impacts but lacking the adaptive capacity.

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Figure 1: Study region showing the locations of the 12 countries included in this study (in bold) and the other countries of the region for context.
Figure 2: Counts of built infrastructure (percentage of country total) within each interval from the coastline.
Figure 3: Replacement value of built infrastructure (percentage of country total) within each interval from the coastline.

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This rapid assessment is based partially on data drawn from the Pacific Risk Information System (PacRIS) and made available through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC). The funding for this project was provided by the Australian Government Department of Environment under the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning (PACCSAP).

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L.K. and S.T. contributed to data analysis and writing the paper. The financial support for the project and data used were acquired by L.K.

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Correspondence to Lalit Kumar.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Kumar, L., Taylor, S. Exposure of coastal built assets in the South Pacific to climate risks. Nature Clim Change 5, 992–996 (2015).

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