HONG KONG — The island of Guam made rare headlines this week when North Korea, responding to blustery language from President Trump, threatened to fire four ballistic missiles into waters near the American territory’s shores. Some Guam residents told reporters that they worried what might happen if North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, were actually to follow through.
Scientists in Guam, however, say they have at least one other major threat in mind: climate change.
“We know that it’s serious,” said Austin J. Shelton III, a marine biologist and the executive director of the Center for Island Sustainability at the University of Guam. “Some of the impacts are here, and a lot more are coming.”
Like other Pacific islands, Guam may be affected in the coming decades as climate change prompts shifts in weather, temperature and oceanic acidity, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Experts said in interviews that the primary consequences may include people suffering heat stress because of an increase in heat waves, a rise in the intensity of tropical storms, and the damage or destruction of Guam’s exceptionally biodiverse coral reefs.
A key concern is how reef damage could affect a $1.4 billion tourism sector that, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau, accounts for 60 percent of Guam’s annual business revenue and nearly a third of its nonfederal employment.