North Korea Aside, Guam Faces Another Threat: Climate Change


The Pentagon said in a 2014 report that climate change posed an immediate threat to national security. And in June, the House Armed Services Committee passed an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would require the secretary of defense to submit a report on how climate change could affect American military installations and combat requirements over the next 20 years.

There are a number of climate adaptation studies underway in Guam, both civilian and military, said Victoria Keener, a research fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu who works on applied hydrology and climatology projects in the Pacific islands.

The adaptation work includes research, overseen by a local climate change task force, on coastal infrastructure in tourist areas, Dr. Keener said, as well as a Pentagon-financed study to explore how climate change may affect the island’s freshwater resources.

Dr. Keener said that, because Guam is not particularly low-lying, it probably would be less vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels than an island such as Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, where the defense contractor Lockheed Martin is building a $915 million radar system for the United States Air Force.

But Guam’s topography is no guarantee that its climate adaptation projects would be effective over the long term, she added.

“Climate change adaptation: It’s a new field,” she said, “and you really don’t know how well you’re preparing for things until 20 years, 30 years down the road.”

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