NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - A total of more than 11,000 disasters over the last 50 years have been attributed to weather, climate and water-related hazards, causing two million deaths and US$ 3.6 trillion in economic losses.
According to the new UN report, while the average number of deaths recorded for each disaster has fallen by a third during this period, the number of recorded disasters has increased five times and the economic losses have increased by a factor of seven, according to a new multi-agency report.
The State of Climate Services 2020 Report: Move from Early Warnings to Early Action report released yesterday says extreme weather and climate events have increased in frequency, intensity and severity as result of climate change and hit vulnerable communities disproportionately hard.
Yet one in three people are still not adequately covered by early warning systems, according to the report released yesterday on the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.
According to the report, in 2018, globally, around 108 million people required help from the international humanitarian system as a result of storms, floods, droughts and wildfires. By 2030, it is estimated that this number could increase by almost 50 per cent at a cost of around US$ 20 billion a year.
The report, produced by 16 international agencies and financing institutions, identifies where and how governments can invest in effective early warning systems that strengthen countries’ resilience to multiple weather, climate and water-related hazards and provides successful examples.
It stresses the need to switch to impact-based forecasting – an evolution from “what the weather will be” to “what the weather will do” so that people and businesses can act early based on the warnings.
The report contains 16 different case studies on successful early warning systems for hazards including tropical cyclones and hurricanes, floods, droughts, heatwaves, forest fires, sand and dust storms, desert locusts, severe winters and glacial lake outbursts.
“Early warning systems (EWS) constitute a prerequisite for effective disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Being prepared and able to react at the right time, in the right place, can save many lives and protect the livelihoods of communities everywhere,” said Prof Petteri Taalas, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General.
He said while Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) generated a large international health and economic crisis from which it will take years to recover, it is crucial to remember that climate change will continue to pose an on-going and increasing threat to human lives, ecosystems, economies and societies for centuries to come.
“Recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to move forward along a more sustainable path towards resilience and adaptation in the light of anthropogenic climate change,” said Taalas.
The report provides a basis for understanding how to strengthen protection for the most vulnerable, including through mechanisms such as the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative, which together with France Development Agency, provided funding for the report.
“Covid-19 has made risk everybody’s business. We need to carry this understanding and momentum into the much bigger fight for our planet against the larger, stronger, more devastating climate emergency," said Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
He said risk reduction, and in particular, climate adaptation requires strong risk governance and a multi-hazard approach, though a key challenge will be to ensure that multi-hazard early warning systems can be adapted to take account of biological hazards alongside extreme weather events.
The report says nearly 90 per cent of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have identified early warning systems as a top priority in their Nationally Determined Contributions on climate change. However, many of them lack the necessary capacity and financial investment is not always flowing into the areas where investment is most needed.
The situation is particularly acute in SIDS and LDCs. The report says since 1970, SIDS have lost US$ 153 billion due to weather, climate and water related hazards, a significant amount given that the average GDP for SIDS is US$ 13.7 billion. Meanwhile, 1.4 million people (70 per cent of the total deaths) in LDCs lost their lives due to weather, climate and water related hazards in that time period.
Data provided by 138 WMO Members shows that just 40 per cent of them have Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems (MHEWS). This means that globally on average one in three people is still not covered by early warnings. Currently, only 75 WMO Members (39 per cent) indicated that they provide impact-based forecasting services.
Dissemination of warnings is weak in many developing countries, and advances in communication technologies are not being fully exploited to reach out to people at risk, especially in LDCs.
“Pre-emptive action underpinned by effective weather data, early warning systems and disaster risk assessments, can save millions of livelihoods in times of conflict and natural disaster. Early warning, Early actions” is therefore a key to dealing with potential risks for the global agri-food system, even before the latest outbreak of locust and the Covid-19 Pandemic,” said Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Mikko Ollikainen, manager of the Adaptation Fund said this year has highlighted the importance of building broad resilience in vulnerable developing countries, to climate change but also to health and economic risks. "Climate services are critical in achieving resilience," Ollikainen said.
The report says there is insufficient capacity worldwide to translate early warning into early action, especially in LDCs. It says Africa faces the largest gaps in capacity. Across this vast continent, the report says, while capacity is good in terms of risk knowledge and forecasting, just 44,000 of people in 100,000 are covered by early warnings, in countries where data is available.
All weather and climate services rely on data from systematic observations. However, observing networks are often inadequate, particularly across Africa where, in 2019, just 26 per cent of stations met WMO reporting requirements.
“This report provides a timely warning of the need for climate services to protect the most vulnerable from devastating climate events. Our support ranges from better preparing Malawian fishing people from storm surges to enhancing infrastructure resilience in Caribbean nations such as Antigua and Barbuda now buffeted by increasingly frequent hurricanes," said Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director, Green Climate Fund.
The Writer is a 2019/2020 Bertha Fellow