The estimated cost to build the capacity to alert everyone to floods, storms, and droughts in time can save lives and prevent damage.
Every person on the planet should have an early warning system for storms, heatwaves and floods within five years.
That’s the target set today by the leaders of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations (UN).
A system that provides early warning is when meteorological organisations use weather data in order to predict risks and send warnings to authorities so they can plan.
According to the WMO, it will need $1.5 billion in investment over five years. This will mainly come from wealthy countries. At the Cop27 climate summit, Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in November, the WMO will present a plan to achieve the target.
Speaking at the WMO’s 72nd anniversary celebration, the organisation’s head Petteri Taalas said: “Besides very critical mitigation [reducing emissions]It is becoming more important to invest in climate adaptation [adapting to climate change].”
He added: “One of the highest returns on investment is reached by improving the weather, water and climate early warning services and related observing infrastructures.”
A senior UN official on a briefing call said it would be “challenging” to raise the money but the sums involved were “a mere rounding error of the $14 trillion mobilised by G20 countries over the last two years to recover their economies from Covid-19”.
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The WMO estimates that one third of the world’s population is not covered by an early warning system.
This includes 60% of Africans, particularly in the continent’s poorest countries in central, west and east Africa.
Many small island states in the developing world lack the ability for weather forecasting.
Ephraim Muwepya Shitima, an adaptation expert from Zambia, is the chair of the African Group of Negotiators.
He told Climate Home it was “a very good target” as “early warning is critical to ensure steps are taken to reduce or minimise the expected impacts”.
He added that achieving the target would require “substantial support” in the form of money, technology, equipment and training for relevant staff.
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David Smith is a Jamaican coast engineer. Climate Home was told by Smith that Jamaica uses information gathered from the National Hurricane Centre in Miami to provide hurricane warnings.
Smith suggested that a map of the shoreline and storm surge limits should be created to make this information more useful. This would be in response to different hurricane strengths and approaches. This would indicate which areas of Jamaica’s coast are at risk from particular storms.
He said this is a “large undertaking, usually done as part of a larger hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment” and would require “fiscal resources” to carry out.
A 2019 global commission on adaptation report found that early warning systems could provide a tenfold return on investment – the most of all the adaptation measures studied.
It found that just 24 hours’ warning of a coming storm or heatwave can cut the ensuing damage by 30% and that spending $0.8 billion on such systems in developing countries would avoid losses of $3-16 billion per year.
One of the world’s poorest countries, Bangladesh, is held up as an example of how investment in early warning systems can save lives. In 1970, a cyclone claimed the lives of 500,000 Bangladeshis. After decades spent on warning systems and shelters for cyclones, only 26 people were killed by cyclone Amphan in 2020.
Source: Climate Change News