21 December, 2023

NGIS partners to help build a game-changing tool to adapt Vanuatu to climate change

The Pacific Islands are on the front line regarding climate change, with many already experiencing higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events. Further changes on top of an existing, naturally variable climate are expected long into the future because of global warming. 

Interestingly, Vanuatu has been the leading voice on climate change in the Pacific Islands.  

Challenges Faced by Vanuatu Climate 

Due to human-induced climate change, Vanuatu’s climate is changing rapidly with rising sea levels, intensified cyclones, marine heat waves, and extreme rainfall. Since the pre-industrial period (1850-1900), Vanuatu has warmed by 0.7°C.1 With more change expected to impact the country in the future, the Vanuatu Climate Information Services for Resilient Development Planning (Van KIRAP) Project was formed. The multi-year project aims to provide critical climate science and information to support decision-making and community preparedness for climate variability. 

Introduction of the Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal

The Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal is a climate information services (CIS) portal established as part of the Van KIRAP by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Secretariate Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to facilitate the development, dissemination and application of CIS among users in agricultural, infrastructure, fisheries, tourism and water sectors in Vanuatu. 

NGIS, FrontierSI, Green Climate Fund, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme and CSIRO created the portal in collaboration with Vanuatu Government partners. This groundbreaking tool delivers high-quality information crucial for resilience and preparedness in the face of changing climate.

Functionality of the Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal

Built on the Google Cloud Platform, the Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal provides a comprehensive suite of resources for managing climate change risk in Vanuatu, making critical climate information readily accessible to decision-makers in government, industry and local communities. The information will help inform adaptation planning and support decision-making for agriculture, infrastructure, fisheries, tourism, and water industries.

Ms Moirah Matou, Van-KIRAP project manager, told CSIRO that access to accurate, up-to-date information about Vanuatu's climate is especially important for Vanuatu’s sectoral decision-makers.

The Climate Futures Portal is now making it easy for sectors in Vanuatu to integrate climate information into long-term sector planning, policies and design guides, and it’s helping to ensure sustainable investments – all of which is strengthening climate resilience development in Vanuatu


—Moirah Matou, Vanuatu VMGD


In-depth Sectoral Insights

The portal translates data into actionable insights for key sectors:


Vanuatu’s biggest exports are coffee, kava, coconut and cocoa, while root crops are a staple food. Every year, the country exports 1500 tonnes of cocoa and more than 30% of Vanuatu’s population relies on coca for their source of income, and in some communities is the only provider of employment.2 This is why aligning agricultural crop production to the climate is a key factor for any producer to consider. 

The Climate Futures Portal provides options to explore different future scenarios (least change and most change) and the ability to interact with the climate variables separately. The scenarios account for uncertainty in future greenhouse gas emissions and natural climate variability. 

From the portal, the data has shown potential for a change in the climate suitability of some crops in some locations in Vanuatu. For example, under future scenarios, suitability for coffee production may decline while opportunities for cocoa and taro production may improve. 


Delivering high-resolution sea-level models to perform climate change compliance assessment on new and existing road infrastructure 

Extreme sea levels pose a risk to coastal communities, ecosystems, cultural sites, roads and infrastructure. Building resilience to extreme sea levels is an important consideration for coastal planning and adaptation. 

The portal includes a coastal inundation mapping tool, making it easier for engineers to assess risks for existing and proposed roads to inform maintenance and planning. The tool can deliver high-resolution sea-level models for climate change compliance assessments on new and existing road infrastructure. 


At least five species of sea turtles are found in Vanuatu, with all considered to be threatened or vulnerable. Gender in sea turtles is determined by nest incubation during embryonic development in the egg, with warmer sand temperatures producing predominantly females.3

For example, in the northern Great Barrier Reef, green turtle rookeries have been producing primarily females for more than two decades, and complete feminisation of this population is possible in the near future.4 This could lead to populations becoming extinct. Through the portal, Vanuatu is exploring how air temperatures and sea surface temperatures could impact turtle nesting sites under current and future climate conditions. 

Additionally, the rising sea levels will cause greater coastal inundation and erosion, potentially affecting turtle nesting sites.


International tourism has brought significant economic benefits to Vanuatu, with the sector contributing around VUV 13,753 million to GDP (17.6%) and directly employed around 10,500 people (15.3% of total employment) in 2012.5 

As annual average temperature and sea level are projected to increase in the coming decades. Sea levels pose a risk, affecting suitable locations for beach bungalows. These bungalows are currently close to the coast and will be exposed to more coastal inundation and erosion in the future. This could impact the habitability and structural integrity of some bungalows, along with the financial viability of some resorts. 

The Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal has a coastal inundation mapping tool. The user can select different emission pathways, climate model responses, time frames and locations, then display a map of coastal inundation for extreme sea level events with average return periods of 10,50 or 100 years. This helps to prioritise locations that might be more suitable for bungalows in the future.

NGIS’s Innovative Role 

At the forefront of technological innovation, NGIS played a pivotal role in crafting the Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal. Leveraging expertise in geospatial technology and data visualisation, NGIS provided cutting-edge solutions to translate intricate climate data into actionable insights. Collaborating with CSIRO, NGIS developed mapping tools enabling users to view diverse greenhouse gas emission scenarios and climate models.

Implications and Future Prospects

The success of the Vanuatu Climate Futures Portal underscores its potential for broader regional impact across the Pacific. Its dedication to tackling climate change is a beacon of hope, paving the way toward a more resilient future for Vanuatu and the Pacific Islands.

  1. CSIRO and SPREP, ‘NextGen’ Projections for the Western Tropical Pacific: Current and Future Climate for Vanuatu. 2021. CSIRO: Melbourne, Australia.

  2. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vanuatu national cocoa strategy 2020 - 2025. Cocoa hemi chocolate blong yumi. 2021.

  3. Standora, E.A. and J.R. Spotila, Temperature-dependent sex determination in sea turtles. Copeia, 1985: p. 711-722. 

  4.  Jensen, M.P., et al., Environmental Warming and Feminization of One of the Largest Sea Turtle Populations in the World. Current Biology, 2018. 28(1): p. 154. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.11.057.

  5. Vanuatu National Statistics Office, Tourism News. 2023. Available from: https://vnso.gov.vu/index.php/en/ statistics-by-topic/tourism#2019-tourism-news

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