Stating that one-third of the world’s people are not covered by early warning systems and hence they are vulnerable to climate change, United Nations on Wednesday announced that it will spearhead new action to ensure every person on Earth is protected by early warning systems within five years.
The announcement was made on the occasion of World Meteorological Day on Wednesday, which has ‘Early Warning and Early Action’ as the theme this year.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has tasked the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to lead the effort and present an action plan to achieve this goal at the next UN climate conference in Egypt this November.
“Human-caused climate disruption is now damaging every region. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change details the sufferings already happening.
“Each increment of global heating will further increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events,” Guterres said, adding, “We must invest equally in adaptation and resilience. That includes the information that allows us to anticipate storms, heatwaves, floods, and droughts.”
However, one-third of the world’s people, mainly in least developed countries and small developing island states, are still not covered by early warning systems.
In Africa, it is even worse: 60 per cent of people lack coverage.
“This is unacceptable, particularly with climate impacts sure to get even worse,” the UN chief said in a video message to the World Meteorological Day ceremony.
“Besides very critical mitigation, it is growingly important to invest in climate adaptation,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, adding, “One of the highest returns of investments is reached by improving the weather, water and climate early warning services and related observing infrastructures. There is a need to invest $1.5 billion during the coming five years to improve the quality of the services and related infrastructure, especially in the LDC and SIDS countries.”
Guterres appealed to world leaders to recognise the value of early warnings and early action as critical tools to reduce disaster risk and support climate adaptation.
“Climate change is already very visible through more extreme weather conditions in all parts of the world. We are seeing more intense heatwaves and drought and forest fires. There is more water vapor in the atmosphere, which leads to extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the ocean fuels more powerful tropical storms and rising sea levels increase the impacts,” he said.
Over the past 50 years (1970-2019), a weather, climate or water-related disaster has occurred on average almost every day — taking the lives of 115 people and causing $202 million in losses daily — according to a 2021 WMO report on disaster statistics.
The number of recorded disasters increased by a factor of five over that 50-year period, driven by human-induced climate change, more extreme weather events and improved reporting.
However, thanks to better warnings, the number of lives lost decreased almost three-fold over the same period, because of better weather forecasts and proactive and coordinated disaster management efforts.