Micronesia and Morocco Throw Climate Lifeline to a Drowning World Through Filing of Proposal to Reduce Super-Greenhouse Gas
Reducing factory-made HFCs part of critical strategy for slowing sea level rise, other near-term impacts
Washington, DC, – The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Kingdom of Morocco on Tuesday formally filed a proposal to use the Montreal Protocol treaty to phase down hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, super-greenhouse gases that are hundreds to thousands of times more potent in their warming impact than carbon dioxide. These factory-made chemicals are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the U.S. and many other countries, and their production is projected to increase up to tenfold by 2050. According to a new paper by a team led by V. Ramanathan at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, halting the production and use of HFCs is part of a key package of near-term measures that would significantly slow down sea-level rise during this century.
Micronesia and Morocco’s proposal comes just two days after the publication of the Scripps paper, which concluded that global sea level rise could be reduced by up to 22% through controls on HFCs and three other “short-lived” climate pollutants. Several science papers have already highlighted that aggressive measures to reduce HFCs could prevent up to 0.5°C of global warming by 2100. The proposal also comes on the same day as a similar one from the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“The damage from rising seas and higher storm surges is one of the most visible and costly effects of climate change,” said Ambassador Asterio Takesy of the Federated States of Micronesia. “Reducing HFCs is critical for slowing both temperature increase and sea-level rise. We are happy the U.S. shares our view on using the Montreal Protocol reduce HFCs. As a native of the Pacific islands himself, we hope that President Obama will help us to seal an agreement on HFCs this year.”
“The countries of the world have been clamoring for immediate action on climate change, rightly insisting that mitigation ambition must be increased before 2020, said Abderrahim Chakour, Division Chief of the Ministry of Business and New Technologies of Morocco. “Addressing HFCs is an essential component of this urgently needed international action.”
As global sea levels rise, populations and infrastructure of coastal cities will become more vulnerable to flooding and storm surges, which are expected to become stronger and more frequent with rising temperatures. In addition to coastal erosion and infrastructure damages, indirect harms from sea-level rise include impacts on job markets and tax revenues, and changes in populations, including migration. According to a 2010 OECD study, a rise in sea-levels of only one meter by 2070 puts at risk 150 million people and $35 trillion in assets in just 20 of the world’s most vulnerable and fastest growing port cities, more than half of which are in developing Asian countries.
“Morocco and Micronesia are throwing the world a climate lifeline,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The Scripps study confirms that cutting HFCs is crucial for slowing disastrous rises in sea level. It’s time to move from study to action. World leaders should live up to the promise they made at Rio last year to support an HFC phase down. The G8 and G20 leaders can help to ensure this is accomplished this year.”
The Scripps study calculates the significant additional benefits that mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) can provide by the end of the century—a critical 1.1°C reduction in future warming. This is the same avoided warming aggressive carbon dioxide mitigation can produce in this period. Reducing both SLCPs and carbon dioxide can prevent 2.3°C of warming and keep the planet under the 2°C guardrail, according to the study, and can reduce the rate of sea-level rise by up to 50%, with SLCP’s providing two-thirds of the reductions.
Micronesia has a history of success at bringing about effective climate mitigation under the Montreal Protocol. In 2007, the Montreal Protocol Parties agreed to a historic proposal by Micronesia to accelerate the phase-out of HCFCs. Since then, support for phasing down the substitute HFCs under the Montreal Protocol has been steadily increasing. Over 110 nations have followed Micronesia’s lead in calling for HFCs to be replaced with chemicals that have a low impact on global warming.
The Micronesia proposal is here. A similar proposal by North American parties is here. The study led by V. Ramanathan at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, is here.