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Marianas Variety: EPA official discusses climate change

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 Manager John McCaroll spoke about the impact of climate change on the Pacific islands during a seminar Monday at Northern Marianas College.

Students, educators, environmental activists and other members of the community, including U.S. Department of the Interior/Office of Insular Affairs CNMI field representative Harry C. Blanco, attended the seminar.

Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality lead coastal planner Erin Derrington spoke about what the CNMI is doing relative to climate change.

NMC program coordinator Alfredo B. de Torres, PhD, facilitated the seminar.

According to McCaroll, there had already been seven storms by May 2015. In August, Typhoon Soudelor hit Saipan.

Aside from an “unprecedented number of storms,” he said climate change has also resulted in rising sea levels.

He said the sea level in the Western Pacific has risen by 25 percent, and is projected to rise one to four feet in the future.

There have been more floods — four in Majuro, the Marshall Islands — since 2013, and long droughts on other islands, said McCaroll who attributed these to climate change.

This is why EPA came up with a “clean power plan,” he added.

The agency has adopted the first national standard to address carbon pollution from power plants, and has proposed rules to cut carbon emissions from existing coal power plants 30 percent by 2013, he said.

McCaroll said EPA fought hard to regulate carbon emissions from industrial sources. Aside from a record 4.3 million comments they received, the agency was also sued in several states to delay the implementation of the rule, he added.

EPA, so far, has won all court cases, he said, which means the agency can regulate carbon emissions from industrial sources such as coal power plants.

The CNMI is exempted from regulation, McCaroll noted.

As for EPA’s efforts in the Pacific islands, these include water infrastructure funding to build resiliency, coral reef and shoreline protection and technical support and assistance.

The U.S. Office of Insular Affairs has also been doing its part, Blanco said in an interview after the seminar.

He said OIA this year provided funding to the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative so it can conduct workshops and come up with a plan to address climate change.

“This is one of President Obama’s priorities,” he added. “Funding is provided to Interior and OIA meets with the insular areas and gathers all the stakeholders.”

In a climate change stakeholders meeting in June, he added, island government representatives got together to develop a vulnerability assessment.

The next step is to work on the implementation of an adaptation plan, Blanco said.

The Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative, he added, has been going around the Pacific. They were on Guam last week and are headed to American Samoa this week.

“We are just in the initial phase,” Blanco said. “It was just last year that we started this, and we are likely to have follow-up meetings to get everybody together again and see what they have been doing. It is an ongoing work.”

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