Hotter weather, stronger typhoons, coral reef death, and physical and mental health risks are among the major challenges detailed in a new report on climate change in the CNMI.
The report, issued over the weekend, says climate change is expected to disrupt many aspects of life in the CNMI. Those who are already vulnerable—including children, the elderly, low-income families, and individuals with disabilities—are at greater risk from extreme weather and climate events.
Among its key findings are that the number of typhoons are expected to go down but for typhoons intensities to go up, which means fewer but stronger typhoons every year, delivering higher wind speeds and more rainfall. Also, sea levels are rising and are expected to become damaging, exacerbated by high tides, storm surges, and coastal erosion.
“More frequent and intense coastal flooding and erosion are anticipated to affect properties and infrastructure in the coming decades as sea level rise accelerates,” the report said.
Also, air temperatures are projected to keep rising under all future warming scenarios.
Among the threatened resources include high-value coastal infrastructure and the millions of dollars that ocean ecosystems add to the CNMI economy annually.
The report, called “Climate Change in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Indicators and Considerations for Key Sectors,” was prepared by the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment, which is a consortium of several government, nongovernment organizations, and research entities. It is one in a series of new PIRCA reports aimed at assessing the state of knowledge about climate change indicators, impacts, and adaptive capacity of the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands and the Hawaiian archipelago. (More details on Thursday; see Environment section)
Authors from the CNMI Office of Planning and Development, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management, and the East-West Center—along with 50 technical contributors from local governments, NGOs, researchers, and community groups—developed the CNMI PIRCA report.