Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory administered by New Zealand (MFAT 2009). Tokelau is located in the South Pacific Ocean, consisting of three low-lying coral atolls (Atafu, Nukunono and Fakaofo), rarely exceeding 5 metres above mean sea level (SOPAC 2006). Land area is limited to approximately 12 sq. km (SOPAC 2006). Currently, Tokelau does not have a formal climate change adaptation strategy.
The climate of Tokelau is tropical, moderated by trade winds from April to November (CIA 2009). The mean temperature of Tokelau is approximately 28 degrees Celsius (SOPAC 2006). July is the coolest month and May is the warmest (SOPAC 2006). Rainfall is irregular but heavy, averaging 80 mm per day (SOPAC 2006). Severe tropical cyclones, once rare, have become more frequent in recent years (SOPAC 2006). Cyclones cause extensive damage to houses and local infrastructure. Cyclonic events combined with rising sea levels are contributing to the inundation of low lying areas, adversely affecting food and water sources. Consequently, the possible increase in cyclone frequency and sea level rise associated with climate change could pose a significant threat to the long-term survival of Tokelau (SOPAC 2006).
Tokelau’s natural resource base is limited, confining agriculture to the subsistence level (CIA 2009). The economy is heavily dependent on aid from New Zealand and remittances. Revenue is also generated from the sale of copra. Poor soil quality, rapid drainage, and increasing sea levels, however, are resulting in low fertility (SOPAC 2006). Additionally, Tokelau relies on fisheries licence fees for revenue, contributing some $500, 000 per year to Tokelau’s budget (MFAT 2009). Increases in ocean temperature and acidification associated with climate change could adversely affect this source of revenue.
CIA - The World Factbook. 2009. Tokelau. [online]. Available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tl.html. [29 October 2009].
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). 2009. Tokelau. [online]. Available at http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Countries/Pacific/Tokelau.php. [29 October 2009].
South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC). 2006. [online]. Available at http://www.sopac.org/Tokelau. [29 October 2009].