IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

16.3.2 Other relevant conditions

Populations on many small islands have long developed and maintained unique lifestyles, adapted to their natural environment. Traditional knowledge, practices and cultures, where they are still practised, are strongly based on community support networks and, in many islands, a subsistence economy is still predominant (Berkes and Jolly, 2001; Fox, 2003; Sutherland et al., 2005). Societal changes such as population growth, increased cash economy, migration of people to urban centres and coastal areas, growth of major cities, increasing dependency on imported goods which create waste management problems, and development of modern industries such as tourism have changed traditional lifestyles in many small islands. Trade liberalisation also has major implications for the economic and social well-being of the people of small islands. For example, the phasing out of the Lomé Convention and the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement will be important. The end of the Lomé Convention means that the prices the EU pays for certain agricultural commodities, such as sugar, will decline. Such countries as Fiji, Jamaica and Mauritius may experience significant contractions in GDP as a result of declining sugar prices (Milner et al., 2004). In Fiji, for example, where 25% of the workforce is in the sugar sector, the replacement of the Lomé Convention with the terms of the Cotonou Agreement is likely to result in significant unemployment and deeper impoverishment of many of the 23,000 smallholder farmers, many of whom already live below the poverty line (Prasad, 2003). Such declines in the agricultural sector, resulting from trade liberalisation, heighten social vulnerability to climate change. These changes, together with the gradual disintegration of traditional communities, will continue to weaken traditional human support networks, with additional feedback effects of social breakdown and loss of traditional values, social cohesion, dignity and confidence, which have been a major component of the resilience of local communities in Pacific islands.