By Mario Villar
United Nations, Mar 23 (EFE).- The United Nations announced an initiative on Wednesday aimed at ensuring that every person on Earth is covered by early warning systems against extreme weather and climate change.
At present, they are lacking in regions that are home to a third of the world’s population.
The UN unveiled that new target on World Meteorological Day, whose theme this year is Early Warning and Early Action, saying it is absolutely essential in a scenario of increasing global climate change effects.
“Early warnings and action save lives,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has tasked the World Meteorological Organization with preparing an action plan to remedy the situation, said Wednesday in a video message.
The WMO, which will present that plan at the next UN climate conference this November in Egypt, said in a press release on Wednesday that $1.5 billion must be invested over five years to extend coverage to all of humanity.
“Today, one-third of the world’s people, mainly in least developed countries and small island developing states, are still not covered by early warning systems,” Guterres said in Wednesday’s video. “In Africa, it is even worse: 60 percent of people lack coverage. This is unacceptable, particularly with climate impacts sure to get even worse.”
Early warning systems are mechanisms that allow a region’s inhabitants to know when hazardous weather is on its way and help protect them from floods, droughts, heat waves and storms.
Those systems monitor real-time atmospheric conditions on land and at sea, allowing effective predictions of future weather and climate events using advanced computer numerical models.
The systems typically include emergency notifications via cellphone and plans for responding to different situations.
International organizations say these types of systems are among the most effective and inexpensive ways to save lives at a time when climate change is causing a rise in the number of dangerous meteorological phenomena.
According to a recent WMO report, a disaster related to either a weather, climate or water hazard occurred every day on average over a 50-year period from 1970 to 2019, killing 115 people and causing $202 million in losses daily.
But deaths from weather-, climate- and water-related disasters decreased almost three-fold from 1970 to 2019, with important advances in early warning systems worldwide having been credited with reducing the number of fatalities.
Just 24-hours warning of a coming storm or heatwave can reduce the ensuing damage by 30 percent, according to the 2019 Global Commission on Adaptation flagship report “Adapt Now,” which said spending $800 million on such systems in developing countries would avoid losses of between $3 billion and $16 billion per year.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas was quoted as saying in that organization’s Wednesday press release that investment in climate adaptation must go hand-in-hand with climate change mitigation efforts.
“The growing number of disasters due to climate change is endangering implementation of a large number of Sustainable Development Goals. Besides very critical mitigation, it is growingly important to invest in climate adaptation,” Taalas said.
“One of the highest returns of investments is reached by improving the weather, water and climate early warning services and related observing infrastructures.” EFE