Call for Papers: 1.5°C and Small Island Developing States in Regional Environmental Change

Editors of a special issue of journal Regional Environmental Change are inviting submissions of articles that focus specifically on the 1.5⁰C temperature limit and its implications for Small Island Developing States. The resulting collection of articles would ultimately feed into the IPCC 1.5°C special report due in 2018.

Date2016, November 02
Atoll community of Kwai, Malaita, Solomon Islands - village inhabitants report more and more effects from climate change impacts including coastal erosion and storm surge. ©Nick Hobgood, Flickr

Introduction to special issue

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are positioned as particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their small size, geographical features and concentration of infrastructure, economic activities and population in coastal zones (Mertz et al., 2009; MacPherson & Akpinar-Elci, 2013, Nurse et al. 2014).

The extreme exposure and vulnerability of SIDS to sea level rise, increased intensity of extreme events, changes in temperature and precipitation and resultant impacts on economic and social structures (Gamble et al., 2010; Scott, 2012, Hernández-Delgado, 2015), stands in stark contrast with the negligible contributions of SIDS to global greenhouse gas emissions, the drivers of climatic change. Sea level rise and coastal erosion are particularly disturbing impacts of climate change as they threaten the very existence of many small, low elevation islands (Albert et al., 2016; Storlazzi, Elias & Berkowitz, 2015).

In addition, observed and projected impacts on coastal ecosystems, especially on coral reefs, severely threaten livelihoods in island regions and are projected to cause high economic damages (Chen, Chen, Chu & McCarl, 2015). Small islands also have especially sensitive fresh water supply systems and water stress is likely to pose a serious threat (Karnauskas, Donnelly & Anchukaitis, 2016; Terry & Chui, 2012).

These dire projected effects of climate change on SIDS has led the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to advocate strongly for a cap of 1.5⁰C on global warming above pre-industrial levels (AOSIS, 2015; Benjamin and Thomas, 2016).

Current levels of warming at nearly 1⁰C have already had observable impacts on a global scale including declines in marine fisheries and food production and increases in sea level rise and flooding (UNFCCC, 2015). While warming of 1.5⁰C will result in significant additional impacts, it is likely that there will still be adaptation options for SIDS as sea level rise is projected to remain below 1 meter and terrestrial and marine species important for SIDS have higher likelihoods of survival (UNFCCC, 2015). With a warming of 2⁰C, impacts are thought to exceed the limits of adaptation for SIDS and result in irreversible and dangerous levels of climate change (UNFCCC, 2015).

While there is a significant body of work focused on climate change and SIDS, there is a lack of literature that focuses specifically on the 1.5⁰C temperature limit and its implications for SIDS. The upcoming IPCC special report on 1.5°C represents an unique opportunity to address this important literature gap and this special issue aims to facilitate a timely and comprehensive collection of new contributions to this matter that will feed into the IPCC 1.5°C report.

For this special issue, we welcome submissions from variety of disciplines across both social and natural sciences that address the issue of 1.5⁰C and SIDS. Original research articles and commentaries are welcomed for submission. For commentaries, we explicitly invite contributions that revisit already existing analysis to specifically address the 1.5°C question.

Submissions that focus on a particular geographic region, i.e. Pacific, Caribbean, etc. or on a particular country or community within SIDS are also welcome. Submissions that address any of the below questions or any question related to 1.5⁰C and SIDS will be well received.

  1. What are the projected biophysical and/or socioeconomic impacts of 1.5⁰C for SIDS?
  2. What are the avoided impacts and reduced risks at 1.5⁰C compared to higher levels of warming?
  3. How is vulnerability and adaptation of SIDS affected at 1.5⁰C of warming?
  4. What are existing methods of adaptation and are these methods applicable at 1.5⁰C?
  5. What are limits to adaption for SIDS and will they be reached at 1.5⁰C or above?

Guest Editors

, University of The Bahamas
, Climate Analytics
Policy and Technical Expert, Climate Change,

Deadlines for submissions

Full papers submission: September 2017
Proposed special issue published date: March 2018


Albert, S. et al. (2016). Interactions between sea-level rise and wave exposure on reef island dynamics in the Solomon Islands. Environmental Research Letters, 11 (5), 54011.
AOSIS. (2015) ‘Submission by AOSIS on the Outcome of the Structured Expert Dialogue and the 2013-2015 Review.
Benjamin, L. and Thomas, A. (2016). ‘1.5⁰C to stay alive? AOSIS and the long term temperature goal in the Paris Agreement. IUCNAEL E-Journal
Chen, P.-Y., Chen, C.-C., Chu, L. & McCarl, B. (2015). Evaluating the economic damage of climate change on global coral reefs. Global Environmental Change, 30, s. 12–20.
Gamble, D.W., Campbell, D., Allen, T.L., Barker, D., Curtis, S., McGregor, D. and Popke, J. (2010) ‘Climate Change, Drought, and Jamaican Agriculture: Local Knowledge and the Climate Record’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100 (4), 880–893.
Hernández-Delgado, E. A. (2015). The emerging threats of climate change on tropical coastal ecosystem services, public health, local economies and livelihood sustainability of small islands: Cumulative impacts and synergies. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 101 (1), s. 5–28.
Karnauskas, K. B., Donnelly, J. P. & Anchukaitis, K. J. (2016). Future freshwater stress for island populations. Nature Climate Change, (April), s. 1–7. doi:10.1038/nclimate2987
Mertz, O., Halsnaes, K., Olesen, J.E. and Rasmussen, K. (2009) ‘Adaptation to climate change in developing countries’, Environmental Management, 43, 743–752.
Macpherson, C. and Akpinar-Elci, M. (2013) ‘Impacts of climate change on Caribbean life’, American Journal of Public Health, 103 (1), e6.
Nurse, L. A. et al. in Clim. Chang. 2014 Impacts, Adapt. Vulnerability. Part B Reg. Asp. Contrib. Work. Gr. II to Fifth Assess. Rep. Intergov. Panel Clim. Chang. (Barros, V. R. et al.) 1613–1654 (Cambridge University Press).
Scott, D. (2012) ‘The vulnerability of Caribbean coastal tourism to scenarios of climate change related sea level rise’, Journal of sustainable tourism, 20 (6), 883–898.
Storlazzi, C. D., Elias, E. P. L. & Berkowitz, P. (2015). Many atolls may be uninhabitable within decades due to climate change. Nature Scientific Reports, 5:14546, s. 1–9. doi:10.1038/srep14546
Terry, J. P. & Chui, T. F. M. (2012). Evaluating the fate of freshwater lenses on atoll islands after eustatic sea-level rise and cyclone-driven inundation: A modelling approach. Global and Planetary Change.
UNFCCC (2015) ‘Report on the structured expert dialogue on the 2013-2015 review’