The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a raised atoll island nation of low coral limestone and sand islands located in the North Pacific Ocean at equal distance between Hawaii and Australia at 9:N 168: E. The country comprises 34 maijor slands and atolls, including the atols Bikini, Enewetak, Majuro, Rongelap, and Utirik, and covers a total land area of approximately 181 square kilometers (km2), approximately the geographic size of Washington, DC. Twenty-two of the atolls and four islands are inhabited, and the country’s total population according to the World Bank was nearly 60,000 in 2008, of which 70% live on Majuro Atoll, the RMI capital. The atoll coastline is approximately 370 km, and the average elevation of most islands is approximately 2 meters above sea level, with the highest recorded point on the atoll, Likiep, at 10 m above sea level.
Its relative isolation—small land area separated by vast oceans—and limited resources make the Republic of the Marshall Islands – like all Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – extremely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. This vulnerability designation is in large part due to the fact that its small land area means that over 99% of the population lives along the coastline, rendering a considerable portion of the country’s economy, infrastructure, and livelihoods vulnerable. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report, the effects of rising sea level are “likely to be of a magnitude that will disrupt virtually all economic and social sectors in small island nations”. In addition to these vulnerabilities, excessive dependence on foreign aid and remoteness make the country particularly vulnerable to climate variability and change.
Selected Indicators for Impacts and Vulnerabilities