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Climate Change Problems For The Fiji Islands

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 4246 words Published: 2nd May 2017

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This paper explores the risks that climate change poses to the tourism development in Fiji islands. It shows the adverse effects of the changing climate and the dangers pose by the tourism activities and also pose a major hazard for the local people in the region. It also deals with the dangerous carbon emissions and CO2 effect on the landscape, food, water, energy.

Key words: pacific, climate change, carbon and CO2 emissions.


The pacific is the world`s largest ocean with a surface area of 175 million sq km and constitutes for 40% of the planet`s waters. Located in the tropical latitudes, it covers more than half the globe`s circumference. Temperature of the surface water in the western tropical regions is always more than 28 ÌŠC over a depth of several hundred meters. This makes up the world`s storage of thermal energy for exchange with atmosphere. Here the interaction between atmosphere and ocean is most extreme and influences the climate not only regionally but planet-wide. The nations of the pacific are obscured human settlements absorbed in this vast fluid universe. The ocean is the most important factor controlling the environment and life. Hence any change in oceanic conditions and climatic changes are important for environment and life (Philander, 1990).

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The mean climate of a region is defined by the average conditions observed over 3 decades or more, considering all characteristics that makes weather felt by everyone and predicted by meteorologists. The main characteristics are temperature, wind conditions, atmospheric pressure, cloud cover and rainfall. The south pacific is bounded by an area of low pressure near the equator and high pressure around 30 S parallel. North-south pressure creates the regular winds in these two areas known as the south-east trades (Philander, 1990).

Any change in earth`s climate has an impact on mankind, biodiversity, health and services provided by ecosystems worldwide. For adapting to such climate changes it is necessary to understand variation of climate, why and how the climate changes, and how it impacts the earth`s ecosystems. Climate mode is an important way of understanding climate variability, changes and impacts. Earth`s climate is changing and such changes tend to take place with different patterns which may be characterised by one or many modes of the climate systems (Philander, 1990).

Fiji is the largest tourism destination in the south pacific but international arrivals are unstable over the last 5 years because of harmful events like political coup in Fiji in 2000, terrorist attacks in United States on 11th September 2001, the Bali attack in 2002, and severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in Asia in 2003. Tourism is endangered to natural hazards and disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, flood, droughts, and cyclones. Climate change is an important characteristic in disaster management as it is likely to affect Fiji through sea level rise and storm surge, changing temperature and extreme weather events (Wilbanks, 2003).

About 400,000 tourist visited Fiji in 2002 with an average length of stay of 8 days. While most visitors come for rest and relaxation linked to beach environments, current marketing campaigns aim to shift the image from pure beach promotion to a wider experience (Ministry of tourism-Fiji, 2003).

The main aim of this journal paper is to analyse effects of climate change in Fiji islands and adapting and minimizing climate change by the tourist resorts. The reason for behind this is that surveys and interviews were undertaken resulting in many operators already prepared for climate related changes and adapt to potential impacts resulting in climate change.


Tourism in Fiji is largely based on resorts therefore accommodation sector is prominent tourism sub-sector. Tourists spend most of their time at the resorts. For the above reasons it was appropriate to focus on this analysis of accommodation.

Effects of climate change on tourism in Fiji

Tourism operators are familiar with ecological factors like strong reefs and plain water crucial for tourism in Fiji. Operators were conscious of the climate change associated impacts like cyclones, the thrashing of coral reefs and flooding. Polluted water was related to mounting water temperature and climate change. Increasing sea levels were mentioned by three businesses, two of which lie in low lying Mamanuca Islands. Generally accommodation business had experienced at least one of the climate related impact. The most common impacts were erosion, water availability, and interruption of electricity. Many resorts were affected by cyclones resulting in coral bleaching and property harm (Short, 2004).

Climate related impacts previously experienced

Frequency out of 25

Comments by respondents

Shore line/beach erosion


Banks on edge property/beach give way

Reduced water availability


In recent droughts

Interrupted supply chain


Power cuts

Coral bleaching


Noticed by tourists, snorkelling affected

Damage to property


From sea surge

Sea level rise


Storm frequency and intensity


Maintenance of gardens

(Short, 2004).

Eight businesses said that they were not affected by any of the factors listed. There are five areas located in the Mamanuca Islands, which are relatively exposed to climate change due to the risk of cyclones, sea level rise, poor water quality, disappearing corals, and inadequate water availability. There is need of understanding of climate change problems and the managers do not share the problems faced by climate change (Short, 2004).

Tourist accommodation uses large variety of energy resources with electrical energy created from hydropower or diesel generator being most important for energy use. Petrol and diesel is use for business vehicles and other purposes. Also liquefied petroleum gas is used by most businesses mostly for cooking, hot water and in laundry. Energy utilization and greenhouse gas emissions differ broadly for diverse businesses. The standard of accommodation and geographical location are the two factors that have major influence on energy consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions (Becken, 2002). Tourist accommodation in the Mamanuca Islands is around 2-3 times as carbon-intensive as that in Viti Levu. The key cause for this is in electricity generation, which is to a great extent less carbon-intensive in Viti Levu. Because of the high quantity of renewable energy sources (hydro and bagasse) compared with diesel production on islands with its natural inadequacy (about 65-70% of energy input is lost during the process of generation). Resorts on remote islands run more or less self-sufficiently, and hence have supplementary energy needs (e.g., sewage treatment, freezing rubbish). Transport energy utilization is also high given that not only do tourists have to be transported to and from the resort, but so also do food supplies, energy (diesel and gas), water and other devices required for operating the resort (Becken, 2002).

The rough feasible estimate is obtained of energy use and carbon monoxide emissions related with tourism for the Fiji. The total number of visitor nights spent in Fiji was 2,891,295 in 2002 (Department of energy, 2003). 82% of visitor-nights were spent in hotels, 13% in backpacker/budget accommodation, and the remaining nights were being spent in motels, on boats or in other forms of commercial and non-commercial accommodation. Total energy used due to tourist accommodation was calculated at 1,078,373,475 MJ per annum which is equivalent to national energy use of 6.5%. in terms of carbon monoxide the accommodation industry emits 68,219 tonnes per annum.( Department of energy, 2003)

Tourism in Fiji is extremely exposed to climate change related hazards such as cyclones, flooding and storms, sea level rise, erosion, transport and communication interruption, and momentarily less water availability. Another most important apprehension for the tourism industry is the deprivation of natural systems, such as coral reefs and forest ecosystems, further exasperated by climate change. Tourism businesses in common are affected in the form of physical damage from a cyclone or storm surge, erosion, and coral bleaching. In spite of the high risk linked with tourist facilities built on the waterfront, most new developments spotlight on coastal areas. Mangroves are been cut down in large scale who in turn acts like a protection against climate related changes (Jones, 2003).

Tourist accommodation providers adapt to climatic conditions that may affect their business, and in doing so they are also prepared for impacts that may result from a changing climate. Typically, operators focus on relatively concrete and foreseeable high-risk impacts, such as cyclones and storm surges, for example by cyclone-proofing their structures and erecting seawalls. A number of accommodation providers have insurance cover against cyclones and storm surges. Generally, it seems that the risk of accumulative impacts or more abstract impacts are less recognised and addressed. Pollution control, sewage treatment, and water management are examples of this. The vulnerability to extreme climate-related events can be reduced when climate change adaptation is integrated in the development process from the earliest stages (Jones, 2003).

The exact location of the development and design such as building material, orientation, structures and landscaping helps in reducing the vulnerability. There is a opportunity to change tourism development in at destinations less vulnerable to climate change, with current attempts to diversifying Fiji`s tourism product in relation to ecotourism. New and unique tourism products can be developed in Fiji on high land areas using Japanese concept of shakkei (borrowed landscape), where hotel layout, garden landscaping and scenery are mixed together into an overall experience of ecosystem that is different from the typical beachfront (Ayala, 1995).

A number of greenhouse gas moderation procedures are in place such as adapting generator sizes, switching off lights, energy efficient light bulbs and solar hot water. There is a huge potential for solar energy and wind-generated power especially on the Coral Coast, the Mamanuca Islands, and Sonasavu, these technologies are taken up slowly, inhibited by lack of knowledge, capital, capacity and government incentives. Often, the energy demand of a single tourist resort is too small to justify investment in a wind turbine. The policy focus and interests of resort operators in Fiji are development-driven, although there is a strong recognition of the concept of sustainable development. Climate change is mainly seen from the perspective of tourism’s vulnerability and adaptation. Mitigation seems to be less pressing, although in the medium term increasing greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., as a result of increasing tourist arrivals) could undermine Fiji’s credibility in international negotiations on climate change. The above order of Government and industry priorities has to be recognised when trying to implement any climate-change-related measures (Ayala, 1995). Climate change can be mixed with sustainable development by identifying key problems and then linking those to climate change. In the case of Fiji tourism these major local problems are land use issues, old stock accommodation, lack of new capital and investment, limited air capacity, dependence on air travel, economic leakage, lack of unique selling point, environment degradation and political instability (Narayan, 2000).

Environmental problems like pollution, deforestation and excessive use of resources are to be considered. Potential issues in addition to these problems are more likely to be funded by donor agencies, stakeholders and industry members (Hay et al., 2003). Recognizing co-benefits of climate change policies is as important as its effect, for example, heavy use of air conditioning leads to increase in greenhouse gas emissions or the relocation of sand adds to local environmental impacts. Future work would need to take into account technological and economic aspects, as well as the expected amount of reduced or increased greenhouse gas emissions (Dang et al., 2003).

Energy is a major cost driver for the operation of a tourism accommodation business, especially when energy is derived from fossil fuels either for transport or electricity generation. The operation of diesel generators is costly, because of inefficiencies, transportation costs (diesel shipment), maintenance, and salaries for powerhouse staff. Thus, managers have an economic interest in keeping electricity consumption low. The crux with diesel generators, however, is that once a generator is purchased, the optimum range of electricity generation is determined at about 80% of the maximum performance. Mini hydropower schemes are less relevant for coastal resorts, but could be an option for tourism ventures operated in inland communities (referred to as ecotourism operators by the Fiji Ministry of Tourism and Visitor Bureau). The capital costs are very high, however, and consequently the uptake is minimal. The Department of Energy currently assesses potential sites for mini hydropower schemes, and it is also exploring potential for geothermal electricity generation on Vanua Levu, the second largest island of Fiji. Wind energy is not widely used in Fiji, but the Coral Coast, Mamanuca Islands, and Sonasavu are promising locations for wind-powered generation. Wind energy systems are available at different scales, ranging from small 1-kW ones to 100-700 kW schemes (medium scale), or even larger ones (UNEP, 2003). Tourist resorts would need small- to medium-scale wind systems if they want to meet their whole electricity demand by wind power. Small islands are unlikely to erect wind turbines because of lack of space and noise pollution. Resorts on larger areas are in a better position to pursue wind energy. No renewable energy sources are currently seriously discussed for transport, although one resort looked into wind-driven boats, and there are explorations into replacing fossil fuel with bio-fuel, for example derived from coconut (copra) oil (Sopac, 2004).

Steps to minimize the effect of climate change in Fiji

Reforestation is the most important means of reducing climate change. Trees minimizes vulnerable nature of cyclones, improve microclimate and enhances landscapes which are used in tourism activities. Trees reduce carbon content in the air and are useful in adaptive measures like erosion control and watershed management. Forest protection and plantation should be done under adaption policies. Developing small scale technologies for wind and solar energy on the remote island would help reduce the dependency on imported fossil fuel and economic leakage (Dang et al., 2003).


Impact on mitigation

Impact on environment

Tree plantation

Reduces net CO2 emissions through carbon sinks

Benefits biodiversity, water management, soils

Water conservation

Reduces energy costs for supplying water

Positive in areas where water is limited

Renewable natural resources

Reduces CO2 emissions

Overall, less polluting than fossil fuels

Natural building materials

Small carbon footprint for locally produced materials

Depends on sustainability of plantations

Reducing water pollution

Increased energy used for sewage treatment

Positive for coral reefs and marine life

Marine protection


Positive for marine biodiversity

Rain water collection

Saves transport energy for supplying water

Possibly interrupts the natural water cycle

Guest education


Increases awareness

Setting back structures


Positive when structures built away from beachfront

Diversifying markets

Positive if markets are eco-efficient

Depends on environmental impacts of new markets

Weather proofing tourist activities

Depends on the type of activities

Depends on the type of activities

Water desalinisation

High energy costs

Takes pressure off freshwater resources

Increasing beach conditioning

Increases CO2 emissions

Air pollution in case of diesel generation

Beach nourishment

Energy use for mining and transportation

Disturbs eco systems

Reducing beach erosion with sea walls


Disturbs natural currents and cause erosion

(Dang et al., 2003).

There is no common strategy to address interactions between climate change and tourism in Fiji, nor is there a sector-wide industry association that could promote any climate-change-related initiatives. However, there are isolated examples among industry members that reveal a high understanding and advanced use of technology and management to address climatically unfavourable conditions. Those operators are also best prepared for increased risks resulting from climate change. Also, a number of operators engage in wider environmental management, energy conservation, and therefore climate change mitigation, although the greenhouse gas emission aspect is rarely the reason for the mitigating measures undertaken

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Overall, there is a need for tourism-specific information on what climate change is, how it will affect tourism, and what operators could do to adapt and mitigate. In the medium term it would also be important to include climate change in the curricula of tertiary education for students in the field of tourism, resource management engineering and architecture. Since the scope and costs for many adaptation and mitigation measures are largely determined by the design of tourist facilities, the incorporation of these aspects into architectural courses is particularly important. Alongside information and education initiatives, the Government could assist businesses in undertaking energy audits, facilitating the implementation of Environmental Management Systems (e.g., Green Globe 21), and providing incentives, for example for the uptake of renewable energy sources.

Climate change could form part of a wider risk management plan for tourism. Such an initiative is currently being discussed between the Ministry of Tourism and the Disaster Management Office. A two-level approach could be possible, where guidelines are provided for tourism operators to develop their own risk or disaster management plan at the business level, while Government covers wider issues beyond individual businesses, such as tourism infrastructure and larger evacuation plans. The current attempt by the Fiji Visitor Bureau to diversify the product could be seen as part of national-level risk management, as they attempt to spread risk across different markets (e.g., event tourism, sport tourism, nature tourism) and seasons. Fewer initiatives exist to weather-proof tourism, as suggested for tourism in Phuket, Thailand (Raksakulthai, 2003). Another important step towards implementing a nation-wide risk management strategy for tourism and climate change would be the mapping of all tourism infrastructure, as well as the risk of various hazards in different locations.

The Department of Environment in their climate change policy or the Ministry of Tourism in their risk management plan are best advised to pursue measures that offer win-win situations, namely for adaptation, mitigation, wider environmental management and development. Examples of such measures are reforestation, water conservation, and the use of renewable energy sources. It is recommended that the synergies between adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development be explored further and that the effects be quantified where possible; i.e., how much carbon can be saved as a result of a particular measure and what costs are involved. This is even more important given the lack of resources in Fiji, which requires maximising benefits from any implemented measure (Dang et al., 2003).

Reducing the consumption of hot water for laundry and showers and reducing the water temperature are saving measures. Other energy use reductions measures in accommodation are lighting, including energy efficient light bulbs, sensor lighting in the garden, solar panel lights, and room keys used to operate lights inside the room. Although energy efficient bulbs are good option they are expensive and do not last long because of the fluctuating supply of power from generators. In the smaller islands the energy costs of shipping are higher, so the managers tend to increase the ship load with passengers on board with food, waste or water. One way of saving fuel is to minimize shipping trips.

The increase in global mean temperature to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels is necessary to keep the risk of dangerous climate change at an acceptable level and to limit climate impacts. Temperatures increase certain level of atmospheric concentration. The results indicate that in order to have a good chance of limiting global average temperature in the long run to 2 degrees atmospheric concentration of all greenhouse gases needs to be stabilised. Intergovernmental policy on climate change i.e. IPCC indicates that keeping concentration in the range of 445-490 ppm requires global emissions to peak by 2015, and to fall by between 50-85% by 2050. Current trends would result in much higher concentrations and high risks of catastrophic climate change.

The clean development mechanism means to make compliance with easier target commitments , the Kyoto Protocol allows using offset credits from emissions reduction projects in developing countries, under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Governments can propose and implement emissions reductions on a project-by-project basis under CDM. The resulting credits are bought by governments that are under emissions reduction obligations. Large projects categories are renewable energy mainly using hydropower instead of fossil fuels, reduction of methane emissions from landfills and coal mines, emissions from cement production, and destruction of potent industrial gases. There were over three thousand CDM projects underway in may 2008, which, is implemented and approved, would yield expected emissions reductions of 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide. The Asian Pacific region accounts for 80 per cent of the CDM credits that expected to be generated. The World Bank cites supply estimates of 1.4 to 2.2 billion credits by 2012

Conclusions and recommendations

Global concern over climate change impacts and risks has increased greatly in recent times, and climate change is recognised not only an environmental challenge but also an economic challenge. The Pacific region is home to the fast growing, large economies in the world and the dominant source of growth in greenhouse gas emissions. To limit and reduce emissions action is required in developing countries. There is large number of opportunities to reduce emissions but most of these are expensive and cannot be implemented unless policy settings change. More ambitious policies will be needed to turn emission trends around in developing and developed countries. The international dynamics are of the mutually reinforcing type: one country`s action depends on other countries doing their bit. The more countries commit to significant policies, the easier it will become to draw others in. In contrast, if some countries refuse to take part in collective action, others will also refuse to do so. An effective response to global climate change will need to involve bilateral deal or multilateral agreement. Large and medium sized economies will need to be a part of it. For an agreement to succeed, the door must be kept wide open for developing countries to engage fully in policies, with the support of high income countries.

Climate change analysts predict that within the coming decades, sea level will rise gradually. So the affecting nation might have begun identifying the effects of climate change on tourism activities and overall people living in that region. Small islands are at risk to adapt to the adverse affects of climate change because of high costs as well as benefits. Not only just people but unique human cultures are also at high risk. Migration is another option for local people but again the cost factor is crucial, as most of these people are illiterate and unemployed. They will have to relocate unwillingly. Survival is the main concern in this case. It is also highly impossible for any recipient nation to grant asylum to an entire country. The larger impact of climate change will challenge the capacity of the country. The secondary impacts will be water scarcity, food security, health services, land scarcity. At some point many land areas will become incapable of sustaining life and people will be forced to migrate.


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