Growing water-related hazards require monitoring and early warnings, highlights report by World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
The number of people suffering from water-related hazards like floods and droughts is increasing because of climate change. However, forecasting and early warnings are inadequate and global climate finance efforts insufficient, according to a report published today by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
“There has been a dramatic increase in the flooding events during the past 20 years and that increase has been of 134% and we know that because of this current 1.5 degree warming of the planet, we have more humidity in the atmosphere; we have 7% more humidity in the atmosphere because of the current warming and that is also contributing to the flooding“, said Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO’s Secretary-General, today at a press briefing at the United Nations in Geneva.
Most of the flood-related deaths and economic losses were recorded in Asia, where end-to-end warning systems for riverine floods require strengthening.
The number of droughts also increased by 29% over this same period. Most drought-related deaths occurred in Africa.
“We have also seen an increase in the amount of and duration of drought events”, stated WMO’s Secretary-General. “We have about 30% increase at the same time during the past 20 years and this has been very much affecting Africa where both observing systems and early warning services are perhaps the poorest. And the population growth in Africa is boosting this challenge”.
The report called “The State of Climate Services 2021: Water”, a collaboration between the WMO, international organizations, development agencies and scientific institutions, highlights the need for urgent action to improve cooperative water management and scale up investment on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
It estimates that the number of people with inadequate access to water will reach more than 5 billion by 2050 versus 3.6 billion in 2018.
“According to our sister organization FAO, there has been already 2 billion inhabitants of our planet, one fourth of our planet, where people have been exposed to major water stress and there is a lack of drinking water and also a lack of water for agriculture,“ said WMO’s Secretary-General. He added that “also the water resources management is limited according to our sister organization UNEP (UN Environment Programme). We have 107 countries which are not managing their water resources in a sustainable way.”
This past year has seen extreme rainfall caused massive flooding in Japan, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Indian where millions of people were displaced, and hundred killed. In Europe catastrophic flooding led to hundreds of deaths and widespread damage.
According to Mr. Taalas, “sixty percent of WMO members don’t have a proper water sector services, and this is also one of the major challenges for us, and that is also one of the major challenges for climate adaptation. For climate adaptation, we need proper early warning services and the situation at the moment is not suitable.”
WMO’s Secretary-General has reason to believe that the negative trend in weather patterns will continue for coming decades. “Some of these features, like melting of glaciers and sea level rise, will continue for centuries because of the high concentration of carbon dioxide. We have to improve the observing systems and we have to improve the early warning services’ capability of especially least developed countries and that is the way to avoid both the casualties and economic losses related to climate change.”