CHOW Plenary Deep Dive — Improving Resource and Climate Policy Engagement in U.S. Territories

Coral reef ecosystem at Swains Island, National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Photo credit: Kerry Grimshaw/NOAA

Home to more than 4 million people, the islands of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, American Samoa and Guam sit on the frontlines of a rapidly accelerating climate crisis. There, the islands and the communities that live on them face disproportionate climate impacts because of their size, low elevation, relatively remote geographical location, and concentration of coastal infrastructures. Yet, they remain on the periphery of U.S. ocean and climate policy.

Climate change is affecting the way of life on these islands in immediate and alarming ways. Some of its far-reaching burdens are affecting livelihoods, public health and are altering traditional lifestyles and traditions on the islands. Sea level rise, warming water temperatures, increasing storm intensity, beach erosion, and ocean acidification poses risks to beaches and island infrastructure, economic development and prosperity, and coastal tourism activities.

The panel will discuss the specific ocean and climate issues facing island communities including public health, ocean and climate impacts, management of natural resources and how these islands’ people are rising to meet the challenges in their own communities.

Don’t miss Capitol Hill Ocean Week’s “Improving Resource and Climate Policy Engagement in U.S. Territories” plenary, sponsored by Yamaha Rightwaters, for a discussion with those who live and work on the islands. Esther Kia’aina, Executive Director of the Pacific Basin Development Council will moderate the panel featuring Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Vaalele Ale of American Samoa; Rep. Sheila Babauta of the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature; Kemit-Amon Lewis of the Perry Institute for Marine Science; Lirio Márquez-D’Acunti of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust; and Austin J. Shelton of the Center for Island Sustainability and Sea Grant at the University of Guam. The session will also feature remarks from Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan of the Northern Marianas Islands, Congresswoman Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen of American Samoa, and Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, June 8 from 11:00 AM – 12:10 PM EST to join the conversation at Capitol Hill Ocean Week.

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