A new federal report found that federal agencies frequently fail to collect the same amount of data about U.S. territories that they collect, and maintain, for states, which advocates say has wide implications for climate adaptation and mitigation.

The report, authored by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, examined federal data collection in five island territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. The latter three are home to relatively large communities of Indigenous Pacific Islanders. Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands are currently on the United Nations’ list of non-self-governing territories, a list of modern colonies whose peoples have not yet achieved self-government. All U.S. territories are experiencing the impacts of warming oceans, more frequent and violent storms, and bleaching coral reefs.

“As the saying goes, if you don’t count, then you don’t count,” said Neil Weare, co-director of Right to Democracy, an advocacy group for residents in U.S. territories. “If folks are serious about environmental justice, they need to be serious about addressing equity issues in U.S territories, particularly when it comes to issues of data collection.”

The GAO report doesn’t specifically mention climate change, but much of the missing data is closely related: demographics, economics, and agriculture. For instance, of all the National Agricultural Statistics Services’ statistical products, only one includes data from the territories. In American Samoa, where subsistence agriculture is becoming increasingly important to address gaps in food security and is also highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, local officials say the census may undercount farms by relying too heavily on the presence of electric meters.

Read the full article about data gaps and climate risk by Anita Hofschneider at Grist.