Extreme weather events such as droughts, heatwaves, severe storms, and flooding have doubled over the last 40 years around the globe. A review by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) revealed that 80 percent of all disaster events are climate-related, and these disasters have displaced 155 million people since 2008. Economic losses, both from long and short term disaster effects, equal about $1.4 trillion from major disasters alone.
Haiti, a nation still recovering from a major earthquake in 2010, saw a substantial impact from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, a disaster that killed more than 500 people and cut off remote locations from assistance and basic life needs including water, food, and shelter. Already one of the poorest nations in the world, Haiti also lost nearly one-third of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a result of Hurricane Matthew.
The Human Loss
In addition to economic losses, more than 700,000 people have lost their lives over the last decade due to disasters, a number that can be drastically reduced if the right measures are employed. These measures center around effective national weather services, accurate and timely forecasts, and early warning systems, a critical component when a climate-related disaster is imminent. However, the key to early warning systems is their effectiveness in reaching the targeted audience at risk.
“Early warning systems and making the link between predictable weather and climate events and their impacts are critical to save lives and property when disaster looms.” ~ Jonathan Fowler, UNISDR
Most at risk are many of the world’s developing nations that have limited capacity due to funding and infrastructure barriers. New and better technology, advance science, and system governance can assist these nations with providing the right message, to the right individuals — at the right time. These advancements have significantly reduced the cost of providing early warnings to residents at risk from a climate-related disaster, and most importantly, can now be provided in simple language that clearly explains the impending hazard and its likely impacts.
The UNISDR is set to use these advancements to help their new drive for improvement of early warning systems across the globe, which will also including the showcasing of various systems already in place, including the effective European Meteoalarm network.
Raising Awareness for Disaster Risks
Although a substantial effort to address early warning systems and climate risk are already in place, including an effort led by the Government of France known as CREWS (Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems), which also involves the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Bank, and the UNISDR, the newly focused effort that targets early warning systems will raise awareness of this need and significantly help reduce the vulnerability of nations and their increasingly at-risk populations, helping to save lives.
At its core, the UNISDR seeks to reduce disaster risks, and a new focus on assisting those most at risk, including Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States – and continues the commitment made by the UN in Sendai in 2015 to continue reducing disaster risks across the globe.