Climate change is frequently touted as the biggest development challenge that faces humanity. Such rhetoric may be distracting from other development challenges which need to be addressed simultaneously with climate change. This paper uses the case study of small island developing states (SIDS) affected by climate change to explore how focusing on climate change can depoliticise the challenges that they face. Three linked points of depoliticisation through climate change are exemplified: emphasising the hazard, avoiding other long-term development challenges, and shifting focus away from opportunities for reducing vulnerability, including during community reconstruction. Examples cover scientific and policy discussions, from inside and external to SIDS. Links are made with migration narratives, especially learning from the past and the importance of not rebuilding communities with the same vulnerabilities as before. The fundamental challenge is not so much addressing the hazard of climate change per se, but why SIDS peoples often do not have the resources or options to address climate change and other development challenges themselves. In this regard, climate change brings little that is new to SIDS which continue to be marginalised.