Climate change adaptation on small island states: An assessment of limits and constraints

Walter Leal Filho, Murukesan Krishnapillai, Henry Sidsaph, Gustavo J. Nagy, Johannes M. Luetz, Jack Dyer, Michael Otoara Ha’Apio, Peni Hausia Havea, Kushaal Raj, Priyatma Singh, Tom Rogers, Chunlan Li, Monica K. Boodhan, Franziska Wolf, Desalegn Yayeh Ayal, Hossein Azadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
81 Downloads (Pure)


Small Island States (SIDS) are among the nations most exposed to climate change (CC) and are characterised by a high degree of vulnerability. Their unique nature means there is a need for more studies focused on the limits to CC adaptation on such fragile nations, particularly regarding their problems and constraints. This paper addressed a perceived need for research into the limitations of adaptation on SIDS, focusing on the many unique restrictions. To this end, the study identified and described the adaptation limits they have by using a review of the literature and an analysis of case studies from a sample of five SIDS in the Caribbean and Pacific regions (Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga). This research’s findings showed that an adaptable SIDS is characterised by awareness of various values, appreciation and understanding of a diversity of impacts and vulnerabilities, and acceptance of certain losses through change. The implications of this paper are two-fold. It explains why island nations continue to suffer from the impacts of CC and suggest some of the means via which adequate policies may support SIDS in their efforts to cope with the threats associated with a changing climate. This study concluded that, despite the technological and ecological limits (hard limits) affecting natural systems, adaptation to CC is limited by such complex forces and societal factors (soft limits) that more adequate adaptation strategies could overcome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number602
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Adaptation
  • Impacts
  • Limits
  • Policy-making
  • Small island developing states
  • Sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


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