Group wants GovGuam to act on climate change

ACT: Justice Stephen, left, shows Michelle Voacolo how to recycle a T-shirt into a reusable bag during Earth Day 2019 at the Governor Joseph Flores Beach Park in Tumon. Voacolo founded the Micronesia Climate Change Alliance in 2018 to sound the alarm on climate change and press local leaders to act. Post file photo

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, who gained global attention with efforts to raise awareness of the issue of climate change, began protesting every Friday outside the Swedish Parliament at the age of 15. The movement grew into Fridays for Future, where school-age children all over the nation protest in an attempt to pressure the government into doing more to stop climate change.

On Guam, Michelle Voacolo, who founded the Micronesia Climate Change Alliance, a nonprofit, bipartisan grassroots organization dedicated to sounding the alarm on climate change and mobilizing leaders to act, decided more needed to be done locally.

“Currently ... all of these other Pacific islands – Tuvalu, Maldives, Fiji, Palau – all have climate adaptation plans and Guam has nothing,” Voacolo said.

Voacolo started MCCA in October 2018 after Supertyphoon Yutu struck the region.

She said a small island nation such as Guam has a harder time bouncing back from a major storm because of the lack of proper infrastructure. And when major storms happen, "those affected the most are low-income families,” she said.

Adaption plans in places such as Palau include protected areas, an environmental protection fee charged to visitors and reef-safe sunscreen initiatives, though Voacolo said an adaption plan for Guam would “look different because we face different threats than them.”

Some kind of plan is needed by island leaders, she said.

“We just want to recognize climate change is a serious threat to Guam citizens and then we want them to start acting on that,” Voacolo said.

On Aug. 7, the group will take action and hold a peaceful protest at the Guam Congress Building in Hagåtña.

The “Together for Climate Justice” call to action will be held at 5 p.m. and the group is requesting that all citizens concerned about climate change and other environmental threats attend.

“In May, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere reached 414.8 parts per million, the highest level in human history. Studies using ice-core data on historical CO2 levels show this is unprecedented in all of human history. We are venturing into territory unknown to our survival,” a news release by MCCA stated.

“We, as a global economy, need to come together and solve this. This is the greatest threat to humanity,” Voacolo said.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero told The Guam Daily Post on Friday that she supports efforts to mitigate climate change.

“Our administration's position is we believe in climate change. There is science around it. I am very concerned, and it’s very disheartening that we are seeing changes in our reefs because of climate change. I am being briefed that we have bleaching of our corals because of the warming of the ocean, the temperature of the ocean and also the shallowness of the ocean affecting our coral reef. And just think, if our coral reef is affected, that is our main barrier. It's our ocean barrier. We, as a community, really need to do a lot of public awareness in the public schools and so forth to protect our coral reefs," Leon Guerrero said.

MCCA meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. and will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. July 16 at the Micronesia Renewable Energy office in Harmon.

For more information, contact MCCA at 998-2169 or via email at micronesiaclimatealliance@gmail.com.