NextGen climate science information provides Vanuatu useful insights into changes in the climate that has assisted the sectors in their planning and decision-making

Vanuatu, a Pacific country identified as the highest disaster risk of countries in the world, has commended the availability and accessibility of NextGen climate science information, as the nation moves to deal with climate change.

Acting Project Manager, Climate Information Services for Resilient Development Project, SPREP, Sunny Kamuta Seuseu, said the information has provided useful insights into changes in the climate of Vanuatu, which has assisted the agriculture, fisheries, tourism and infrastructure sector in their planning and decision-making.

Seuseu, spoke during a SPREP and CSIRO NextGen Side Event at Pacific Pavilion during COP26 in Glasgow Scotland, where he provided an overview of how the NextGen science is being used to inform sectoral case studies in Vanuatu as part of Van KIRAP.

“In Vanuatu, we are benefitting from a number of NextGen climate science information such as historical analysis as far back as ‘pre-industrial’ baseline or current climate trends; future climate change projections for several important variables, projected changes if the world achieve 1.5 and 2degC limits as per Paris agreement to assist negotiators at COP events and lastly the application ready datasets for selected regions of Vanuatu,” said Seuseu.

He said the information on changes in the climate of Vanuatu in years to come is extremely useful to address key climate change vulnerabilities and support resilient development through the delivery of tailored climate information services.

In the agriculture sector for example, Vanuatu is applying climate projections for rainfall and temperature and other climate related data to better understand future climate impacts on crops and livestock.

“The most critical climate impacts addressed by the case study are projected changes in rainfall would therefore affect crop productivity,” he said. “We have used climate projections on cash crops such as cava and generated kava suitability maps; showing how kava growth and distribution will change over time under different emission scenarios. This has helped the project and agriculture department to start putting in place measures to adapt and mitigate long term climate risks underpin by solid science information that is reliable.”

The Agriculture Sector case study is aimed at improving the ability of planners and decision-makers within Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Technical Centre (VARTC), and farmers to plan for, and respond to, short-and-long term impacts of climate variability and change on food and cash crop production within Vanuatu.

The same approach is applied to the Fisheries sector. For the fisheries case study, they are applying NextGen extreme sea level and marine heat wave projections to understand hotspots and areas of high and low risk across Vanuatu.  Critical nursery areas that are less vulnerable to marine heat waves are identified for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and can help replenish fish stocks to adjacent high-risk areas following a coral bleaching event.

“There are also work underway to overlay NextGen projections to non-climate sectoral data layers of important reefs systems, location of Fish Aggregating Devices, Marine Protected areas, mangroves, sea grass beds where people go fish and rely upon for their livelihood, but also important tourism attractions.”

To develop the tourism sector, coastal inundation information under different emission scenarios is being used as well as geo-spatial information to assist the Department of Tourism Investment and Accreditation Divisions to identify coastal risk areas where new tourism investments will be placed as well as to informed current tourism operators on future risks on rising sea levels and coastal inundation events which may interrupt their operations and cause loss of revenue. 

The infrastructure sector is another key target.

“The Public Works Department is also working towards updating its Vanuatu Resilience Road Manual taking full advantage of the new extreme rainfall, temperature and tropical cyclone projections information to inform appropriate infrastructure designs for roads, bridges and culverts to withstand hazards and their intensities– a key guidance document for the design, construction and upkeep of road infrastructure,” Seuseu said.

“The Manual will use next-generation projections and climate extreme information (return periods) to update design of key infrastructure.”

Seuseu also highlighted how the Van-KIRAP Portal is building capacity to enhance access to NextGen science information by policy makers, government and provincial agencies, private sector, and other development sectors. The Portal is one of many delivery pathways employed to communicate science to stakeholders at all levels of society.

“A Citizen Science component to the portal in the pipeline to increase community participation and engagement to allow people to provide impact data and observations to validate and ground-truth climate models and projections. This functionality will empower local communities through the integration of traditional knowledge with NextGen science increase their ability to manage climate change risks and linked opportunities as faced by them.”

The panel session was also attended by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) experts Dr Geoff Gooley, Dr Leanne Webb and Dr Michael Grose as well as Fiji Senior Climatologist Bipen Prakash who spoke on lessons learned from the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science Adaptation Planning Programme. The Next Generation project is funded by the government of Australia through the Australia-Pacific Climate Partnership and is implemented by CSIRO and SPREP.

This story was produced by Leanne, published at SPREP on 01 December 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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