The latest conclusive evidence about the growing impacts of climate change has yet again highlighted the urgent need for more cross-cutting climate services and partnerships to help communities adapt to extreme weather and to boost disaster resilience.
Progress and challenges in the provision and use of these climate services – which include seasonal forecasts and drought and flood management tools – will be reviewed at the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services from 10-14 November.
The meeting follows the publication of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said that if left unchecked, “climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
“Climate change is happening,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Climate change will not wait for us to be prepared, especially the least equipped: we have to accelerate mitigation and adaptation. “
“As the IPCC stated, there are options available to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change and build resilience to extreme events like heat-waves and floods which are expected to increase in the future,” he said.
“Transforming this science into climate information products and services is our collective business. This is why we are here,” said Mr Jarraud.
Many tools, such as short- and long-term climate predictions, scenarios of future potential risks and vulnerabilities, and maps and products that integrate climate data with hydrological, socio-economic, health and other data, are being developed as part of a major new initiative, the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), said Mr Jarraud.
Progress in service provision
The meeting in Geneva will review progress in the rollout of the GFCS, which is spearheaded by WMO in partnership with other United Nations and international agencies and driven by action at national level. It aims to improve climate services over the next ten years to help countries and communities cope with natural variations in climate as well as human-induced climate change. About 70 nations currently have no or inadequate climate services.
There are four initial priority areas: food security, health, water, and disaster risk reduction. The Board meeting will consider whether to add a fifth priority sector, energy.
The underlying philosophy of the climate services initiative is to leverage the power of partnerships and knowledge-sharing to minimize duplication and maximize benefits. One of the main goals of the GFCS is to link climate service providers (such as meteorologists and hydrologists) with user communities and bridge the information divide of the past.
This is enabling weather and climate information to be factored more effectively into disease surveillance and control. Historical climate records and information on soil moisture are informing decisions on cropping. Seasonal forecasts are helping disaster risk managers plan for floods, landslides or the impact of drought. Long-term climate change predictions are being demanded to inform infrastructure projects, city planning, construction of dams and sea walls etc.
Action on the Ground
Progress is already evident. For instance in Malawi and Tanzania, a flagship multi-sectoral two-year programme funded by the Norwegian government have successfully united meteorologists with user communities. Concerted efforts are being made – and special training provided - to make sure that weather forecasts and seasonal outlooks are accessible and understandable to agricultural extension workers, the health sector and disaster managers.
Regional climate outlook forums now exist all over the world, providing meteorological expertise to climate-sensitive sectors. Information is increasingly being downscaled to national and local level. Funding from the Government of Canada is helping increase the reach and frequency of these climate outlook forums, especially in Small Island Developing States.
WMO has joined with the Global Water Partnership to expand integrated drought and flood management programmes.
Data rescue initiatives have been launched to capture historical records vital to understanding future climate change at regional and local level, especially in least developed and developing countries.
A series of consultations have been held in countries such as Belize, Burkina Faso, Chad, Dominica, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania to fast-track action.
Investment Yields Results
WMO is seeking to ensure that climate services are embedded in national climate change adaptation strategies. There is already considerable international investment in climate-change adaptation programmes –projects with a total budget of more than 700 million US dollars were identified in 16 countries assessed by the GFCS Office.
The potential socio-economic development benefits of investment in better weather and climate services are huge - the global gains from early warnings systems would reach between 4 and 6 billion U.S. dollars per year, with additional co-benefits, according to a World Bank study.
So far, 28 million Swiss Francs have been contributed by 14 countries to the GFCS. Other countries have provided in-kind expertise.
Partners involved in the GFCS include the World Health Organization (which has set up a joint Climate and Health Office with WMO), the World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and others.