Havana, Jul 5 (EFE).- The nations of Latin America and the Caribbean are facing at least four decades of increasingly extreme weather under even the best-case scenario for climate change, the top meteorologist for the United Nations said here Wednesday.
“We have to adapt to climate change because this negative trend in weather patterns will continue to 2060s anyhow,” Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told EFE in Havana on the sidelines of the 14th International Conference on the Environment and Development.
“We will see more often heat waves, more often flooding problems, drought problems, and also we may see more intense hurricanes in the Caribbean region,” the Finnish meteorologist said.
One adaptation recommended by the WMO is the development of early warning systems.
“Only a fraction of the countries in the region have the proper early warning services in place,” Taalas said. “We are very much promoting the establishment of so-called multi-hazard early warning services where we bring meteorological, hydrological, geophysical, ocean assets under one umbrella.”
Another WMO initiative encourages a move in the direction of impact-based forecasting: going beyond forecasts of “meteorological parameters like wind speed, precipitation or temperature” to talk about the likely effects on “agriculture, public safety, transportation, public health, and the energy sector,” he said.
Wealthy countries can help the developing world cope with climate change by providing them with the latest forecasting technology, the WMO chief said.
The most vulnerable nations in the Western Hemisphere are the island states of the Caribbean, which face threats from sea-level rise and stronger tropical cyclones, and Brazil, where the main danger is from deforestation.
The region has experienced an acceleration of climate change, resulting in both human and economic losses, Taalas said.
During the conference, he presented the WMO’s third annual State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean Report, which documents “a vicious cycle of spiraling impacts on countries and local communities.”
The region endured 78 meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards in 2022, most of them storm- and flood-related events that resulted in 1,153 deaths and $9 billion in economic losses.
Weeks of flooding in the Brazilian city of Petropolis left more than 230 people dead, while the Parana-La Plata Basin in southeastern South America saw its worst drought since 1944 and Chile had its fourth-driest year on record.
And heat waves and severe drought combined to cause record wildfires in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Chile.