The UN plans to extend weather warning systems to everyone on the planet

The United Nations want to ensure that every person on Earth can receive early warnings ahead of catastrophic weather events. It set itself the goal of achieving that target within five years in a Announcement this week. Early warning systems are urgently needed to save lives as climate change makes extreme weather worse, UN officials said.

Such systems include technology to predict dangerous weather systems and the ability to share those forecasts with the public so they can take precautions for storms, floods, heat waves and droughts. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), one in three people in the world is still not protected by early warning systems.

“This is unacceptable, especially now that climate impacts are set to get even worse,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video. statement for World Meteorological Day on March 23. Every tenth of a degree global warming leads to greater risks – more extreme storms, floods, heat waves, droughts and fire seasons.

The planet has already started to see some devastating changes. The number of recorded climate, weather or water-related disasters has increased five-fold over the past 50 years, according to a 2021 report by the WMO. Such a disaster has cost an average of 115 lives and $202 million in damage per day over that period.

Many of those who don’t have early warning systems live in places that the WMO also says are most vulnerable to the climate crisis. That includes developing small island states, where rising sea levels can also make flooding and storm surges more dangerous. The disparity in access to early warnings is also greater in Africa, where 60 percent of the continent’s population is not covered.

The WMO called for a $1.5 billion investment in early warning systems over the next five years, especially in countries where the need is greatest. The agency expects a high return on that investment. Every $800 million spent on such systems helps prevent up to $16 billion in damage in developing countries each year, the agency says. In addition to giving people more time to prepare and find shelter, forecasters can even predict a storm’s path and determine which communities need the most help.

The benefits can also be seen in the lives saved over the past fifty years. While weather and climate-related disasters are more common, the number of associated deaths has actually tripled, the WMO says, thanks to more accurate weather forecasting and proactive efforts to coordinate disaster response.

Early warning systems in Bangladesh are credited helping to prevent thousands of deaths during cyclones. A cyclone there in 1991 killed 138,000 people and sparked efforts to be more prepared for storms. Policy changes improved weather forecasts and the way information was shared with the public. Bangladesh has also established disaster management councils and committees and built more protective infrastructure such as cyclone shelters. When Cyclone Fani struck in 2019, less than 20 people in Bangladesh were killed

To achieve the goal of planetary coverage for early warning systems, the United Nations mandated the WMO this year to prepare a plan. The WMO will present its plan in November at the next major United Nations climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.


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