The UN set an ambitious five year deadline on Wednesday for countries to ensure that citizens worldwide are protected by early warning systems against extreme weather and climate change, the UN chief announced, marking World Meteorological Day.
“Early warnings and action save lives,” Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a video message during a ceremony marking the day, adding that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) would “spearhead new action to ensure every person on Earth is protected by early warning systems within five years.”
The agency will lead the effort and present an action plan in November at this year’s UN climate conference (COP 27) in Egypt.
Spotlighting early warning and early action, he underscored: “We must invest equally in adaptation and resilience.”
“That includes the information that allows us to anticipate storms, heat-waves, floods and droughts.”
The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) details the ongoing suffering, as “each increment of global heating” further increases the “frequency and intensity of extreme weather events,” warned Mr Guterres.
He said it was unacceptable that one-third of the world’s people – living mainly in least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS) – are still not covered by early warning systems.
“In Africa, it is even worse: 60% of people lack coverage.”
Climate change has become a more stark reality in all parts of the world, leading to increasingly extreme weather, including intense heat waves, droughts and forest fires.
Meanwhile, increasing moisture in the atmosphere is leading to extreme rainfall and deadly flooding, while ocean warming is fuelling more powerful tropical storms and rising sea levels.
“We must boost the power of prediction for everyone and build their capacity to act,” said the Secretary-General.
“On this World Meteorological Day, let us recognize the value of early warnings and early action as critical tools to reduce disaster risk and support climate adaptation.”
Over the past 50 years, a climate or water-related disaster has occurred on average each day – taking the lives 115 people and causing daily losses of US$ 202 million, according to a 2021 WHO disaster statistics report.
Although the number of recorded disasters has increased by fivefold over that period, improved early warnings and disaster management have saved the lives of many.