Hydromet investments save lives and make economic sense

Source(s)
World Meteorological Organization
Andrey VP/Shutterstock
Andrey VP/Shutterstock

First Hydromet Gap Report calls for scaled-up action

Geneva, 8 July 2021 (WMO) - An estimated 23,000 lives per year could be saved potential annual benefits of at least US$ 162 billion could be realized by improving weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate information – known as hydromet, according to a new report.

The first Hydromet Gap Report, launched on 8 July, tells us how far we have to go to tap the benefits of effective weather and climate services. It presents the challenges of the complex global and local undertaking required and proposes priority actions to scale up support to developing countries to strengthen their capacity.

The report is presented by leaders of the Alliance for Hydromet Development, which brings together the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and international development, humanitarian and financial institutions, at a high-level event on the hydromet solutions needed for effective climate action and sustainable development.

It highlights how investments in multi-hazard early warning systems create benefits worth at least ten times their costs and are vital to build resilience to extreme weather. And yet, only 40 percent of countries currently have effective warning systems in place, and large gaps remain in the vital underpinning observations data upon which these services depend, particularly in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

“Our climate is rapidly changing. The past decade was the hottest on record. Global mean temperature is approximately 1.2 °C warmer than pre-industrial times. We are far off track from reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to avert the worst impacts of climate change and limit temperature rise to within 1.5 °C in line with the Paris Agreement,” says WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

While reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains essential, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience in 2021, with significant increases in the volume and predictability of adaptation finance. Such a breakthrough is vital to ensure all people, especially the most vulnerable, can adapt and be more resilient to the consequences of inevitable future weather and climate events.

“Science-based, data-driven weather and climate services are the foundation for effective adaptation measures,” says Prof. Taalas in a foreword to the report.

“While the contribution of developing countries to greenhouse gas emissions is limited, the impacts of disasters from climate related weather events are three times higher than in high income countries. Accurate weather forecasts and robust climate prediction is critical for adaptation policy and investment decisions,” comments Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire.

The Alliance for Hydromet Development was launched at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, COP25, in Madrid. The Alliance members collectively committed to unite and scale up efforts to close the capacity gap on high-quality weather, climate, hydrological, and related environmental services as the foundation for resilient and sustainable development.

Alliance for Hydromet

Huge benefits

The report stresses that hydromet investments make massive economic sense.

They create a triple dividend that includes:

  • avoided losses – reliable and accurate early warning systems save lives and assets worth at least ten times their cost;
  • optimized production – the estimated annual benefits of improved economic production through the application of weather forecasting in highly weather-sensitive sectors amount to about USD 96 billion;
  • improved long-term strategic response to climate change. The Global Commission on Adaptation estimates that strategically investing USD 1.8 trillion between 2020 and 2030 across the globe could generate USD 7 trillion in total net benefits. Hydromet services are providing the underpinning for these investments.

Country Hydromet Diagnostics

The report presents the Country Hydromet Diagnostics, a standardized and integrated, operational tool of the Alliance for assessing hydromet services and guiding investment decision-making.

In partnership with 16 countries a first round of the Country Hydromet Diagnostics was undertaken. Assessments were undertaken by peer meteorological services. It revealed wide capacity gaps among the assessed countries. The weakest countries lacked the most basic capacity in terms of equipment, skills and user engagement, despite the clear and growing risks.

Weather and climate observations ranked among the elements with the largest gaps. This reconfirmed the fact that generating and internationally exchanging basic surface-based weather and climate observations is a perennial challenge.

Alliance for Hydromet

Closing the observations gap: The Systematic Observations Financing Facility

The observations gap is particularly severe in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, which are currently far from meeting the requirements of the internationally agreed Global Basic Observing Network. This makes it impossible to provide high-quality forecasts in these countries.

The lack of observations from these countries impacts the quality of forecasts across the entire globe. Without a substantial increase of internationally exchanged surface-based observations, the quality of hydromet services cannot be significantly improved. These services can only be as good as the data they are built upon.

Therefore, the Hydromet Gap Report states the creation of the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) as a priority action of the Alliance. Creation of the Alliance is backed by many leaders from beneficiary countries and international organizations. It aims to strengthen climate adaptation and resilient development through the sustained collection and international exchange of high-quality surface-based weather and climate observations.

As a global initiative, the facility is expected to provide long-term financial and technical support to close the observations gap in a sustained manner, in particular in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

The aim is to launch SOFF at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, COP26, and for it to be operational in 2022.

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