In a stark warning, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a report on Thursday highlighting that inadequate progress in addressing climate change is impeding the global effort to combat poverty, hunger, and deadly diseases.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated this concern, emphasizing that record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events are causing widespread disruption worldwide.
According to the WMO, current policies are set to result in global warming of at least 2.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, significantly exceeding the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting warming to 1.5°C.
The report pointed out that the current northern hemisphere summer has been the hottest on record, prompting urgent calls for action. Secretary-General Guterres highlighted the potential of weather, climate, and water-related sciences to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Climate Science and Early Warnings Crucial for Saving Lives and Advancing SDGs
The “United in Science” report, a collaborative effort of 18 UN organizations and partners, demonstrates how climate science and early warning systems can save lives, protect livelihoods, enhance food and water security, promote clean energy, and improve overall health.
Recent devastating flooding in Libya, which claimed thousands of lives, underscored the importance of robust forecasting capacity in addressing extreme weather events. In Sudan, ongoing conflict has severely limited the country’s ability to forecast hazards, putting lives at risk.
The report also emphasized that extreme weather events contribute significantly to global hunger, with approximately 670 million people estimated to face food insecurity by 2030. Investments in weather sciences and services can help farmers make informed decisions on crop management and planting, aiding in the prevention of crop failures.
Anticipating Climate-Sensitive Disease Outbreaks and Reducing Economic Impact
The report featured insights from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warned of the increased health risks associated with climate change and extreme events. Integrating epidemiology and climate information can enable the forecasting and preparation for outbreaks of climate-sensitive diseases, such as malaria and dengue.
Furthermore, early-warning systems can play a pivotal role in poverty reduction by allowing people to anticipate and mitigate the economic impact of disasters. Between 1970 and 2021, nearly 12,000 reported disasters stemming from weather, climate, and water extremes resulted in $4.3 trillion in economic losses, with the majority occurring in developing countries.
Urgent Action Needed to Bridge Gap in Emission Reductions
The WMO lamented the limited progress in closing the gap between countries’ emissions reduction commitments and the necessary cuts to achieve the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal. To limit global warming to 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45 percent by 2030, with carbon dioxide emissions approaching net zero by 2050.
The report’s authors stressed that even small reductions in emissions and fractions of a degree of warming are crucial in the effort to combat climate change and achieve the SDGs.
Importance of “Early Warnings for All” Initiative
The WMO emphasized the significance of the United Nations’ “Early Warnings for All” initiative, aiming to ensure that all people are protected from hazardous weather, water, or climate events through early warning systems by the end of 2027. Currently, only half of the world’s countries report having adequate multi-hazard early warning systems in place.
The release of the “United in Science” report precedes the SDG Summit and Climate Ambition Summit scheduled to take place at the UN General Assembly. These meetings will focus on revitalizing efforts to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and ramping up actions to combat the climate crisis.