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Report: FSM faces health threats, stronger storms, hotter days

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

The Federated States of Micronesia is facing stronger typhoons and sea-level rise among other climate-related menace that could disrupt the Pacific nation’s economy, threaten its ecosystem and spawn new virus outbreaks that would compromise the population’s health, according to a report.

Temperatures in the FSM have warmed less than the global average and the number of hot days has increased across the country, according to the report by the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment or PIRCA, a consortium of several government, NGO and research entities.

“Threatened resources include culturally significant coastal infrastructure and the tens of millions of dollars that fisheries inject into the FSM economy annually,” the report said, noting that those living in low-lying atolls are the most vulnerable.

The FSM report is one of a series of research studies 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, according to East-West Center.

“This research is important to translate science and reality into pragmatic solutions to address climate change,” said Lucille Apis-Overhoff, FSM’s assistant secretary of Climate Change and a contributor to the report.

Dr. Murukesan Krishnapillai, FSM's research scientist at the College of Micronesia, has studied climate-related changes affecting the country’s communities and developed technical assistance programs that strengthen the resilience of local food systems.

“By delving into crucial aspects such as rising temperatures, extreme events, sea level rise, migration, human health risks, and food security, this report unveils the intricate web of challenges posed by climate variability and change,” said Krishnapillai, who contributed to the report.

A study of the FSM's climate indicated that the number of days per year with a daily maximum temperature of 90°F to 91°F or above has increased, while the number of cool nights with a daily minimum temperature below 69°F and 74°F has decreased.

The report noted that increased temperatures could cause heat waves that would exacerbate a range of pre-existing health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.

"Heat exposure can worsen the outcomes for people with these conditions. For example, prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can increase hospitalizations for cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory disorders," the report said.

The authors also warned of new diseases that may emerge, carrying the risk of outbreaks or pandemics that interact with the impacts of climate hazards.

In recent years, new virus outbreaks such as Zika hit the FSM.

The authors said climate change–related habitat shifts can bring different species closer together and increase the risk of disease transmission

"Furthermore, climate-related extreme events can affect the response to disease outbreaks, adding challenges for the public to limit disease spread and for the health sector to provide needed prevention and care," the report said.

The authors recalled that the Covid-19 pandemic had large social and economic impacts on the FSM’s population. "The disruption of access to schools and health facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic put populations at increased risk in the face of climate-induced hazards," the report said.


As for the nation's public health facilities, the authors underscored the need for the FSM to retrofit, redesign or relocate some of its medical facilities and health infrastructure, which are likely to be impacted by the sea-level rise.

"Although there are no vulnerability analyses of FSM’s medical infrastructure to climate change and sea level rise, some medical facilities are located close to the shoreline, which suggests some facilities may be exposed to sea-level rise impacts," the report said.

The authors also noted the erratic climate's threat to food security.

"In addition to greater potential for food and water-borne disease, climate change increases challenges to nutrition and food security," the report said. "Climate change is likely to drive up the prices of imported foods."

The FSM's livelihood is also at risk of declining, the authors said, noting that changes in ocean temperature can disrupt fisheries and cause coral death.

"In the FSM, the ocean is life—more than 70 percent of FSM households engage in fishing. Fisheries changes and extensive coral loss are possible within the next few decades if current trends in rising ocean temperatures continue," the report said.

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