Climate change: Extreme weather warning systems for all ‘in five years’

Early warning systems to protect the entire world from extreme weather and climate disasters should be rolled out within five years, according to the UN.

Right now, around one-third of the global population has no cover while in Africa 60% of the population is unprotected. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will put together a plan on how this can be achieved by November.

Over the past 50 years, a weather, climate, or water-related disaster has occurred on average every day.

As the world warms, these weather related extreme events are on the increase, going up five-fold over the past half-century.

But better warning systems have ensured that the number of people killed in these floods and storms has fallen significantly in the same period. However, the scale of improvement depends very much on where you live. Last year, when Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, it was the fifth strongest such storm to hit the continental US.

Thanks to effective forecasting and early warning, tens of thousands of people were mandated to evacuate and overall deaths were less than 100. Contrast that with Cyclone Idai which hit Southern Africa in 2019, leaving around a thousand people dead across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. While warnings were issued, the dissemination of the information, particularly in rural areas was not effective.

“This is unacceptable, particularly with climate impacts sure to get even worse,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a video statement to launch the new plan. “Early warnings and action save lives. We must boost the power of prediction for everyone and build their capacity to act.“ The UN has now asked the WMO to develop a scheme so that early notifications of these type of extreme events can cover everyone on the planet within five years.

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