Early warning systems for natural disasters are the topic of a new UN project, as extreme weather grows more common due to climate change.
Early warning systems, like tornado sirens, air quality alerts, hurricane trackers, and fire towers, save thousands of lives. And more each year, as severe weather events become more and more common. But a third of the world’s people lack coverage.
“Today, one-third of the world’s people, mainly in least-developed countries and small island developing states, are still not covered by early warning systems,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “In Africa, it is even worse: 60% of people lack coverage.”
“This is unacceptable, particularly with climate impacts sure to get even worse,” he said. “We must boost the power of prediction for everyone and build their capacity to act.”
On Wednesday, Gutteres announced a joint project between the UN and the World Meteorological Organization to make sure that developing countries have the same early warning systems as wealthy countries. He has charged the WMO to have an “action plan” for the project by November, to present at the UN climate conference in Egypt, and to complete the project within an optimistic five years.
According to the UN, the WMO will build on many of its existing programs, like a multi-hazard alert system for events like cyclones, flooding, fires, and coastal inundation. Plans have already been on the table, in response to a WMO study last year which showed that since 1970, a climate or water-related disaster has occurred daily on average, with a mean average of 115 deaths and $200 million in calculable damages every day.
Just Wednesday, an immense tornado tore through New Orleans, that city’s third major weather disaster since Katrina. Kauai was under a flash flood watch, and several Alabama counties are flooded. At least two are dead, and that’s with every warning system available in the developed world. Warning systems are necessary everywhere as extreme weather events grow ever more frequent.
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