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Call for papers for a thematic issue n° 149-2019-2: The Pacific on the frontlines of climate change

Elodie Fache, Pascal Dumas et Antoine De Ramon N'Yeurt

Focus of this special issue

The scientific, political and media communities alike generally present the tropical Pacific as located on the frontlines of climate change and, therefore, as a region where climate change has unmatched urgency. Some of the effects of climate change have already been detected and started being analyzed: sea level rise, sea surface temperature increase, ocean acidification, escalating patterns of extreme weather events, etc. There is little doubt that these effects will increasingly affect the Pacific region in the years ahead, hence constituting major challenges for the ecosystems and for the Pacific Island nations that depend on them. This special, multidisciplinary issue of the Journal de la Société des Océanistes (JSO) aims to bring together research in social as well as in environmental sciences on all aspects of climate-related changes occurring in the Pacific region.

Climate change, the facts

The influence of human activities on the planetary climate has been such since the Industrial Revolution that the creation of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, has been advocated (Lewis & Maslin, 2015). The atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases (mainly Carbon Dioxide, CO2) has been inexorably rising at an accelerated rate, meaning that we are committed to decades of global warming even if all emissions ceased today, which seems extremely unlikely. Warming of the global climate system has been stated to be unequivocal (IPCC, 2014). The global average surface temperature could be 2.6°C to 4.8°C higher than today by 2100 (ibid.). About a quarter of the atmospheric CO2 eventually ends up being absorbed by the oceans, whose surface waters’ acidity is continually increasing, causing damage to coral reefs and other calcifiers. Moreover, global sea levels have already risen by about 3 mm per year over the last 20 years and could rise up to 1 m in certain areas by the end of the century due to thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of ice sheets and glaciers. All these changes are expected to have profound environmental impacts on Pacific terrestrial, coastal and oceanic ecosystems.

Ecological effects of climate change

Predicting the trajectory of ecosystems facing climate change has become an extremely active, yet challenging field of research. Effects on biodiversity have already been largely investigated at the species level. However, direct observations, manipulative experiments, and the increasing use of ecological modeling suggest a wide range of adaptive responses from organism to biome levels (Bellard et al., 2012). Substantial alterations are for instance expected in the coastal ecosystems, where projected changes in temperatures, rainfall regimes, currents, availability of nutrients and dissolved oxygen, ocean acidification, sea level, etc. act as direct threats to coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and associated species (Ganachaud et al., 2011). Such alterations have serious implications for Pacific Island nations, dependent on these habitats for their economic development, government revenue, food security, and livelihoods (Bell et al., 2013).

Diverging climate change narratives

Pacific Island nations are often presented as particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change (e.g., Howes et al., 2018). For some scholars, this reflects a victimization strategy crafted by NGOs and/or political leaders with the aim to lay claim to climate change adaptation funds (Gay, 2014). Some Pacific islanders however endeavour to replace this narrative with one of great determination to fight and/or adapt to climate change. This is best illustrated by the message of the Pacific Climate Warriors, a network of young Pacific Islanders: “We are not drowning. We are fighting.” Also, increasingly considering themselves as Large Ocean Island States (instead of Small Island Developing States), Pacific Island nations strive to make their voices heard in the global climate change arena, for instance through the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership and Fiji’s presidency of COP23.

Receptions, perceptions, responses

Social science research on climate change in the Pacific Island region has recently gained considerable momentum. This research considers that ‘climate change’ does not only refer to a set of physical phenomena that have local impacts and can be observed, studied, modelled, etc. It also refers to a set of scientific ideas that Pacific islanders ‘encounter’ (Hetzel and Pascht, 2017) and that might change the way they think, feel and act (Hulme, 2009). This concept has also given rise to a set of narratives and counter-narratives playing a key role in Pacific islanders’ social and political life (Kempf, 2017) as well as to various ‘climate change adaptation’ strategies, including relocation and migration (Bryant-Tokalau, 2018). In the Pacific maybe even more than anywhere else, climate change has become “the key narrative within which all environmental politics – from global to local – is now framed” (Hulme, 2009). This focus on climate change can depoliticise the development challenges that Pacific Islands face (Kelman, 2014). Thus, among other topics, social science research explores Pacific islanders’ receptions of climate change information, perceptions and discourses related to climate and climate change, and existing or planned responses to climate change effects.

Call for social and environmental science papers

There are currently few bridges between environmental and social science approaches to climate change in the Pacific region. This special issue aims to address this gap: it will select original research papers dealing with climate-related changes in all potential fields of science (anthropology, archaeology, geography, economics, political science, climatology, biology & ecology, oceanography, etc.). Multi- and cross-disciplinary as well as comparative papers, addressing some of the following topics, are particularly welcome:

  • Climate change & the Pacific Ocean: processes, discourses, strategies;

  • Climate change time-scales and temporalities;

  • Climate change mitigation & adaptation strategies, in particular ‘integrated’ approaches: ecosystem-based adaptation, ridge-to-reef management, integrated coastal zone management, disaster risk management...;

  • Climate change impacts on ecosystems and socio-ecological systems;

  • ‘Resilience’: what this buzzword means to different scholars and actors.


For more detailed information about this special issue, please contact the coordinators:

- Elodie Fache (Institut de recherche pour le développement, ird-gred) :

- Pascal Dumas (Institut de recherche pour le développement, ird-entropie) :

- Antoine De Ramon N'Yeurt (The University of the South Pacific, pace-sd) :

Planning and submission process

- 1st of February 2019: submission of titles and abstracts (1,000 characters maximum) to the issue coordinators (see above) and to the JSO editing committee (Raphaëlle Chossenot: and Isabelle Leblic:

- 1st of March 2019: submission of full manuscripts (60,000 characters maximum) to the issue coordinators (see above) and to the JSO editing committee (Raphaëlle Chossenot: and Isabelle Leblic:

Please find the guide for authors here:

- March-April 2019: first review process by the issue coordinators

- May 2019: external review process organized by the JSO editing committee

- June-July 2019: reviewers’ reports sent to the authors by the JSO editing committee


- September 2019: submission of the final revised version of the manuscripts

Bell Johann D. et al., 2013. Mixed Responses of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change, Nature Climate Change 3, pp. 591-599.

Bellard Céline et al., 2012. Impacts of Climate Change on the Future of Biodiversity, Ecology Letters 15, pp. 365-377.

Bryant-Tokalau Jenny, 2018. Indigenous Pacific Approaches to Climate Change - Pacific Island Countries, Cham (Switzerland), Palgrave MacMillan.

Ganachaud Alexandre S. et al., 2011. Observed and Expected Changes to the Tropical Pacific Ocean, in J.D. Bell, J.E. Johnson & A.J. Hobday (eds), Vulnerability of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change, Noumea, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, pp. 101-187.

Gay Jean-Christophe, 2014. Le réchauffement climatique : L’instrumentalisation des îles, L’Espace géographique 43, pp. 81‑89.

Hetzel Desirée & Arno Pascht, 2017. Young Ni-Vanuatu Encounter Climate Change: Reception of Knowledge and New Discourses, in E. Dürr & A. Pascht (eds), Environmental Transformations and Cultural Responses: Ontologies, Discourses and Practices in Oceania, New York, Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 103124.

Howes Ella L., Silvana Birchenough & Susana Lincoln, 2018. Impacts of Climate Change Relevant to the Pacific Islands, Pacific Marine Climate Change Report Card: Science Review, pp. 119.

Hulme Mike. 2009. Why We Disagree about Climate Change, The Carbon Yearbook: The Annual Review of Business and Climate Change 1, pp. 4143.

IPCC, 2014. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds)], Geneva, IPCC.

Kelman Ilan, 2014. No Change from Climate Change: Vulnerability and Small Island Developing States, The Geographical Journal 180, pp. 120-129.

Kempf Wolfgang, 2017. Climate Change, Christian Religion and Songs: Revisiting the Noah Story in the Central Pacific, in E. Dürr & A. Pascht (eds), Environmental Transformations and Cultural Responses: Ontologies, Discourses and Practices in Oceania, New York, Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 1948.

Lewis Simon L., Mark A. Maslin, 2015. Defining the Anthropocene, Nature 519, pp. 171-180.

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