By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
FSM official says world leaders too farsighted, overlooking near-term solutions to temperature rise
World leaders gaze way far ahead into the future, overfocusing on emission growth so much so that they overlook the close-at-hand problems with instant solutions that can decelerate temperature rise, according to a Micronesian official.
“We must reduce short-lived climate pollutants quickly and at a massive scale,” Andrew R. Yatilman, secretary of FSM Department of Environment, Climate Change & Emergency Management.
“Solutions readily exist to cut the ‘super pollutant’ emissions of methane, black carbon soot, tropospheric ozone, and also HFCs (the gases used in the expanding refrigeration and air conditioning sectors that are now controlled under the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol," Yatilman said.
The FSM official appealed for accelerated actions on slowing temperature rise in order to save the most vulnerable island nations from the catastrophic impacts of anomalous climate events.
Yatilman said solving the short-lived super pollutants will not only reduce warming and allow time for longer-term climate measures to take effect, but will also save countless lives and money by improving respiratory health, protecting food production, and ensuring equitable access to cooling worldwide.
Addressing the virtual U.S.-led Leaders Summit on Climate, Yatilman noted that the world is racing against “the rising tide of climate change,” hence exigent actions are imperative.
“We have less than 10 years to outpace the rapid advance of global warming with effective solutions,” Yatilman said.
U.S. President Joe Biden convened the summit this week to urge global cooperation on climate change. “It’s an encouraging start,” Biden told world leaders during the summit. “We’re really beginning to make some real progress.”
Biden vowed to reduce U.S. emissions by at least 50 permission by 2030, more than doubling the country’s prior commitment under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Brazil, Canada and Japan made commitments on Thursday to curb domestic greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
While noting that current commitments and plans are commendable, Yatilman said they are insufficient.
“Strategies to flatten the curve in emissions growth by 2050 will not save countries like Micronesia – nor will they save the lives of many people in larger, more resilient countries where wild fires, heat waves, floods, and storms will increasingly harm communities, devastate lives, and cripple economies,” Yatilman said.
“They are failing because, although they may reduce emissions in the medium and long-term, they do not reduce the current, rapid rate of warming that will melt the Arctic and provoke destructive tipping points, cascades and feedback loops that we may never recover from -- certainly Micronesia will not,” he said.
Yatilman said by focusing only on CO2 emissions, as too many countries have done to date, temperatures will surpass the 1.5-degree Celsius limit by 2030.
He said exce eding the 1.5-degree celsius threshold will be devastating for island states including FSM, which comprises 607 islands.
Extreme weather events and sea-level rise will erode coastlines and lead to saltwater intrusion. “It will also escalate the risk of unpredictable feedback loops, tipping points, and cascading climate events, which will be catastrophic for all countries,” Yatilman said.
He lamented the lack of political courage, financing and strategic action to reduce the emissions as a global priority while many countries advance with haste on solutions for mid-term emission reduction goals, carbon dioxide removal, and support for adaptation.
The FSM has long been an active voice in the international climate arena and has spearheaded important proposals, like the one that led to the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol.
The amendment, which will phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the powerful greenhouse gases used mostly in refrigeration and air-conditioners, will help avoid up to 1-degree celsius of potential warming if paired with energy efficiency measures.