Climate inaction puts lives at risk: World Meteorological Organization

UN Secretary-General António Guterres echoed this message, warning that record temperatures and extreme weather were “causing chaos” around the world.

Mr. Guterres stressed that the global response has been “far too short,” just as the latest UN data suggests that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are only 15 percent on track at the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda.

“Super Progress” on the Sustainable Development Goals

According to the World Meteorological Organization, current policies will cause global temperature to rise by at least 2.8°C above pre-industrial levels over the course of this century – well above the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C.

This year’s Northern Hemisphere summer was the hottest on record, prompting the UN Secretary-General last week to reiterate his call for “intensified action”.

In his introduction to the report, Mr. Guterres stressed that weather, climate and water sciences can “promote progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in all areas.”

Lives in the balance

The United in Science report, which brings together the expertise of 18 UN organizations and partners, shows how climate science and early warnings can save lives and livelihoods, enhance food and water security, clean energy, and improve health.

After the recent floods in Libya, which claimed thousands of lives, the Secretary-General of the Organization (WMO), Petteri Taalas, stressed that the lack of sufficient predictability could have deadly consequences for any country when faced with extreme weather events.

He highlighted the precarious situation developing in Sudan, where conflict has paralyzed the agency’s ability to predict risks.

The head of the country’s meteorological service told him that most of its employees had fled Khartoum and were unable to “run their business in a normal way.”

“We are no longer able to predict these types of high-impact weather events anymore,” he warned.

Extreme weather events are also a major factor in the spread of global hunger, and the new report seeks urgent action on this front as the United Nations estimates that nearly 670 million people could be food insecure in 2030.

The report’s authors explore the relationship between food production, life-saving nutrition, and investments in weather science and services that enable farmers to make decisions about crops and farming.

Early warnings are also essential “to help identify potential areas of crop failure that could lead to emergencies.”

Expect a deadly disease outbreak

The United in Science report includes analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has warned that climate change and extreme events such as heatwaves will “lead to a significant increase in ill health and premature mortality.”

The report’s findings show that integrating epidemiological and climate information makes it possible to predict and prepare for outbreaks of climate-sensitive diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever.

Reducing losses resulting from disasters

Early warning systems can also help reduce poverty by giving people the opportunity to anticipate and “reduce the economic impact” of disasters.

The World Meteorological Organization-led report shows that between 1970 and 2021, nearly 12,000 disasters caused by extreme weather, climate and water events were reported, causing $4.3 trillion in economic losses – most of them in developing countries.

Every part is important

The Organization (WMO) regretted that “very limited progress” had been made so far in reducing the gap between the promises made by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the level of emissions reductions actually needed to achieve the temperature target set in the Paris Agreement.

To limit global warming to 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45 percent by 2030, with carbon dioxide emissions falling to near net zero by 2050.

Although some future changes in climate are unavoidable, “every fraction of a degree or ton of carbon dioxide is important for limiting global warming and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” the report authors wrote.

Early warning for everyone

WMO also stressed the importance of the UN “Early Warnings for All” initiative, which aims to ensure that “every person on Earth is protected from hazardous weather, water or climate events through life-saving early warning systems by the end of 2027.”

Currently, only half of the world’s countries report having adequate multi-hazard early warning systems.

The United in Science report was released ahead of the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Ambition Summit to be held at the UN General Assembly next week.

The UN Secretary-General told reporters in New York on Wednesday that these meetings will “shed light on how to save the Sustainable Development Goals at the halfway point to 2030” and “reinforce ambition to address the climate crisis.”

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