The World Meteorological Organization’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas has said that investing in early warning services is critical if countries and communities are to meet the challenge of climate change. The warning came as the Global Commission on Adaptation launched a landmark report on the economic benefits of action.
The report has been published ahead of the 2019 Climate Action Summit convened by UN secretary-general António Guterres on September 23, 2019, in New York, to boost ambition and accelerate efforts to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
“It’s highly important that we start mitigating climate change and aim at reaching the Paris targets between 2°C and 1.5°C,” said Taalas, referring to the temperature increase limits set out on the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to rein in global warming by curbing greenhouse gas emissions from industry, energy production, transport, and other sources.
“But besides that, it’s highly important that we start paying a growing amount of attention to adaptation, and that’s why the Global Commission on Adaption was established. We are fully behind the goals of this commission and, for us, a very powerful way to adapt to climate change is to invest in early warning services,” he added.
The commission’s report sets out a vision to greater resilience to weather and climate hazards – such as floods and storms – which, without early warning systems, risk turning into economically damaging disasters. It finds that adaptation can produce significant economic returns: the overall rate of return on investments in improved resilience is high, with benefit-cost ratios ranging from 2:1 to 10:1, and in some cases even higher.
Specifically, the analysis finds that investing US$1.8tn globally in five areas from 2020 to 2030 could generate US$7.1tn in total net benefits. Besides early warning, these areas are climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection, and investments in making water resources more resilient. These areas represent only a portion of the total investments needed and total benefits available.
Given their importance to the overall success of climate adaption, Taalas underlined that around 100 of the WMO’s 193 member countries and territories do not have proper early warning systems.
“This means that when disasters are hitting those countries, the impacts of climate change are causing more damage than in those countries where we have proper services,” he said. “From WMO’s side, we are committed to work for such a challenge and improve the service capability of our less developed countries like in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Island states and also several other parts of the world.”
WMO has long spearheaded international initiatives on early warning. In June, its decision-making body, the World Meteorological Congress, endorsed a package of measures to strengthen early warning services, notably in urban areas, which are vulnerable to multiple hazards, including floods, storms, heatwaves, sea-level rise and poor air quality.
WMO also hosts the secretariat of the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems initiative, known for short as CREWS, which focuses on least developed countries and small island developing states.