WMO-No. 1071 - E-Library


WMO-No. 1071 - E-Library

WMO-No. 1071

FOREWORDThrough a wide variety of proxy records, includingice cores, tree rings, sediments, corals, rocksand fossils, among others, the modern scienceof paleoclimatology reveals that climate variabilityand change were present on our planetlong before our ancestors. More recently, thereare several references in our recorded historyto unusual periods in some parts of the world,such as the Medieval Climatic Anomaly and thesubsequent Little Ice Age, as well as exceptionalevents like the “year without a summer” of1816, attributed to the colossal 1815 MountTambora eruption.Over the past 35 years, the World MeteorologicalOrganization (WMO) has been instrumental inraising our awareness on the anthropogenicimpact on natural climate variability and change,which accelerated with the Industrial Revolution.Its impact has become visible in contemporarytimes. The year 2010 was the warmest year onrecord, at the same level as 1998 and 2005, whileover the last 10 years global temperatures averagedalmost half a degree above the 1961–1990mean, a record for any 10-year period since thebeginning of instrumental observations.Over the past year, the Russian Federation experiencedan exceptional heatwave, while differentparts of Africa suffered severe droughts or flooding,and Australia, several Latin American countries,China and Pakistan experienced very severe floods,some of which caused deadly landslides and/ormudslides. Although no individual extreme eventcan be attributed to climate change, the emergingtrends are consistent with the findings of the FourthAssessment Report of the IntergovernmentalPanel on Climate Change (IPCC), which projectsincreased variability in temperature, precipitation,severe weather, widespread melting of ice andsnow and rising sea levels.Reliable and timely climate information willincreasingly be required by decision-makers andby all socio-economic sectors, particularly at theregional and local levels, in view of the graverisks associated with a rapidly changing climate.During 2009, WMO convened the World ClimateConference-3 with the involvement of otherpartners of the United Nations system. Headsof State and Government as well as Ministerspresent at the Conference unanimously agreedto establish a Global Framework for ClimateServices, to support adaptation and strengthenclimate knowledge and applications for all socioeconomicsectors. Throughout 2010, a High-levelTaskforce has developed recommendations for theFramework structure, priorities and governance,which shall be submitted to the Sixteenth WorldMeteorological Congress, to be held in Genevain May/June 2011. This Global Framework willbe critical to ensuring access to climate servicesfor all.Therefore, on the occasion of the sixty-firstWorld Meteorological Day in 2011 and on behalfof WMO, I would like to express our appreciationto all those colleagues across the 189 Membersof WMO, not only at the National Meteorologicaland Hydrological Services, but also throughoutacademia, research, the media and the privatesector, who actively collaborate with WMO inits sustained efforts to facilitate Climate for you.(M. Jarraud)Secretary-General3

IN HARMONY WITH NATUREEarth’s unique climate system nurtures and protectsus. At the same time, it is never constantand has always been changing in space andtime. Sometimes it is bountiful, sometimes itputs us through constraints and sometimes weare faced with disastrous hazards. Generationsof accumulated knowledge and wisdom havehelped us to survive and prosper by using climateas a resource and managing climate as a risk.It is our common undertaking to understandhow the climate system works, to protect theplanet for future generations and to adapt to itschanging nature.Since time immemorial, humans have both fearedand revered the weather. The elements dictatedhuman behaviour and activities, as well as welfareand survival. Over the ages, various peoplesprospered by adapting to the local climate, whichshaped their dietary habits, shelter, lifestyle,folklore and beliefs – in brief, their culture.In the past, when people migrated, whether dueto war or climate conditions such as drought,floods or climate-induced diseases, they adaptedgradually to a new environment by learning andapplying the knowledge of weather and climatefor their security and well-being. For example,monsoons have shaped agricultural practices,culture and the colourful festivals of the peoplesof South Asia and West Africa. Indeed, peoples allover the world have prospered through ingeniousapplication of their foreknowledge and experienceof the weather and climate. Weather andclimate influence socio-economic development,agriculture and cultural identity.FRED FERAL4

Adapting to climate:a challenge for ancient civilizationsClimate was an important factor in the rise and gradual decline of several ancient civilizations,as seen in the following examples.Ancient EgyptA prehistoric climate change in Eastern Sahara resulted in the rise of the Egyptiancivilization. From about 10 500 years ago, the wide area now covered by Egypt,the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Sudan and Chad is believed to have experienced asudden onset of humid conditions. For centuries afterwards, the region supportedsavannahs full of wildlife, lush acacia forests and swamps. From about 5 500 yearsago, the Sahara became too dry for human life. Nevertheless, Egyptian civilizationthrived, as people could count on the annual flooding of the Nile that broughtexceptionally fertile alluvial soils.Indus Valley civilizationThe Indus Valley civilization flourished around the Indus river basin during theBronze Age, encompassing much of what is now western India, Pakistan and partsof south-eastern Afghanistan and eastern Islamic Republic of Iran. Its decline some3 700 years ago is attributed to earthquake activity, but also to the drying up ofthe river system and the failure of monsoons, which had guaranteed water for life.Mayan societyMayan society, which appeared around 2000 BC and extended through CentralAmerica and Mexico, went into decline following an intense 200-year drought. Thecivilization was particularly susceptible to long droughts as most of the populationcentres depended solely on lakes, ponds and rivers for their livelihood.Climate swings in other societiesOther human societies have succumbed to climate swings. The canal-supportedagricultural society of Mesopotamia collapsed after a long, severe drought. With wetterconditions, civilizations thrived in the Mediterranean and West Asia. Catastrophicdrought and cooling hurt agricultural production and caused regional collapse.The societies that survived climate variability and change adapted to them. About300 years after the Mayan collapse, the Chumash people on California’s ChannelIslands survived severe droughts by transforming themselves from hunter-gatherersinto traders.5

DISTURBING THE BALANCERecent climate changeLike our bodies, the climate system carries withit the memory of various influences.The Industrial Revolution led to a tenfold increasein average per capita income, while populationincreased sixfold. But the improvement in thehealth and wealth of many people around theglobe left its mark in the climate system. Fossilfuels powered economic development but leftbehind long-lasting greenhouse gases.Natural resources such as forests, oceans and arableland have been overexploited. The atmospherebecame a dumping ground for waste greenhousegases (GHG). These trends continue to this dayand have even accelerated.Modern society has relied more on technology tocontrol or modify nature to suit lifestyles ratherthan live in harmony with nature. Gradually, thebalance between humans and nature, evidencedby a stable climate, started to change.Nature speaks outOver the past three decades, the rise in temperature,increase in the number and severity of extremeevents, drying rivers, melting glaciers and thedecline of biodiversity have been visible signsof a changing climate. Nature has been reacting,bringing the interaction between people andclimate full circle.Pollutants damage our Earth systemsGases and aerosols emitted by human activitiescause environmental problems. Among them areair pollution, acid rain, a thinning of the ozonelayer in the stratosphere and climate change.These problems affect people, plants, animals,ecosystems, buildings and much more.Key greenhouse gases influenced by humansinclude carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide,chlorofluorocarbons, such as CFC-12 and CFC-11,and lesser gases, such as sulphur hexafluoride.The three primary greenhouse gases also havestrong interactions with the biosphere and theoceans. Chemical reactions in the atmosphereand in the oceans affect their abundances as well.These gases linger for decades, while others lastmuch longer. Even if these emissions were stoppednow, it would take decades for concentrations ofGHGs to return to previous levels.Ozone is also a greenhouse gas. The ozonelayer is found in the stratosphere, above wheremost aeroplanes fly, and protects life on Earthfrom ultraviolet radiation. Ozone is formed fromprecursors in the atmosphere and is a short-lived6

WMO, a beacon for alerting on the changing climateBuilding on centuries of advances in science, technology, meteorology and internationalcooperation, WMO raised the alarm about the changing climate and the implications. WMOauthoritative statements are based on the relentless work of meteorologists and hydrologistsworldwide. Intense climate monitoring, research, policy formulation and awareness-buildinghave followed these statements.A thinning ozone layerIn 1975, WMO issued the first authoritative statement alerting the world on the thinning ofour protective stratospheric ozone layer that shields life on Earth from exposure to excessiveultraviolet radiation. It led to the adoption of the Vienna Convention on the Protection of theOzone Layer in 1985 and contributed to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete theOzone Layer in 1987.More carbon dioxide in the air we breatheIn 1976, WMO issued the first authoritative statement on the accumulation of carbon dioxide in theatmosphere and the potential impact on the Earth’s climate. A preliminary assessment of futureclimate scenarios and their impact on human activities was made using climate modelling techniques.Strengthening climate researchThe First World Climate Conference, convened by WMO in 1979, influenced the establishmentof a number of important international scientific initiatives, such as the Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change, co-sponsored by WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007; the WMO World Climate Programme andthe World Climate Research Programme (co-sponsored by WMO, the International Council forScience (ICSU) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UnitedNations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)).Confirming global warmingIn 1985, WMO, UNEP and ICSU convened the Villach Conference. It confirmed that increasingconcentrations of greenhouse gases would likely lead to significant warming of the globalclimate in the twenty-first century.At the roots of the international climate agendaThe Second World Climate Conference called for the establishment of a climate convention,adding momentum to international efforts that resulted in the development of the UnitedNations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. It also led to the establishmentof the Global Climate Observing System and to recommendations for future activities of theWorld Climate Programme.The World Climate Conference-3 in 2009 decided to establish a Global Framework for ClimateServices to strengthen the production, availability, delivery and application of science-basedclimate prediction and services.7

substance. It is highly toxic in the surface layer ofthe atmosphere and has a strong warming effect.Other short-lived pollutants that define airquality, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogenoxide and volatile organic compounds, areinsignificant as greenhouse gases, but have anindirect impact on global warming due to theirinteraction with tropospheric ozone, carbondioxide and methane. Aerosols (suspendedparticulate matter) are also short-lived pollutantsthat have a cooling effect.Carbon dioxide is the single most importanthuman-emitted greenhouse gas, contributing63.5 per cent to the overall global warming effectsince the beginning of the Industrial Age. However,it is responsible for 85 per cent of the increase inthe global warming effect over the past decade.Other human-induced greenhouse gases includemethane and nitrous oxide, which contribute 18.2and 6.2 per cent to the overall global warmingeffect, respectively.Population growth: the multiplierThe world’s population stood at about one billionbefore the Industrial Revolution got underway. From the middle of the twentieth century,it began a precipitous climb; today’s populationis nearly seven billion, and is estimated to reachnine billion by 2050.8

KNOWING OUR CLIMATEIf we understand climate change and variability,we can better assess the impact of climate onour activities, as well as our own influence onclimate. This gives us the capability to makebetter informed decisions in our private andprofessional lives.Life on Earth is sustained by the energy radiated bythe sun. A phenomenon known as the greenhouseeffect, in which gases such as water vapour andcarbon dioxide contribute to retaining some ofthe energy radiated back from the Earth’s surface,allows the temperatures close to the Earth’s surfaceto remain within bearable limits for human beings.Without the greenhouse effect, global mean surfacetemperature would have been about –19°C insteadof the 14°C that prevails at present.As a consequence of how societies have developed,we have added and continue to add large amountsof greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide,methane and nitrous oxide, to the atmosphere.This is making the Earth even warmer and hassignificant implications for the many aspects ofour climate.The climate system at a glanceThe climate system is a complex, interactive systemconsisting of the atmosphere, land surface, snowand ice, oceans and other bodies of water. Theatmospheric component of the climate systemmost obviously characterizes climate, which isoften defined as average weather over time.Climate is usually described in terms of the meanand variability of temperature, precipitation andwind over a period of time, ranging from monthsto decades to centuries. Climate is sometimesdescribed as, among others, equatorial, tropical,subtropical, continental, maritime, subarctic,Mediterranean, desert, savannah, steppe andrainforest. Climate may also be described asmoist, humid, dry, hot or cold.To quantitatively characterize the climate includingits geographical distribution and variability overtime, scientists use an agreed list of 50 EssentialClimate Variables. In addition to several basicparameters such as temperature, the EssentialClimate Variables include detailed characteristicssuch as soil moisture, soil carbon and oceanoxygen content and aerosols. This set of variablesis constantly reviewed.Changes in observing systems technologies,progress in science and technology, a greaterfocus on climate adaptation and mitigation, andthe need to constantly refine climate changeprojections all influence the climate variables tobe taken into account in characterizing presentand future climate.9

Observing our climate: 50 Essential Climate VariablesClimate change and variability are assessed by monitoring 50 Essential Climate Variables,and the interaction between them. This is accomplished with the help of the Global ClimateObserving System, which brings together the work of many observation networks for land,air and sea.AtmosphericSurface: air temperature, wind speed and direction, water vapour, pressure,precipitation, surface radiation budgetUpper-air: temperature, wind speed and direction, water vapour, cloud properties,Earth radiation budget (including solar irradiance)Composition: carbon dioxide, methane and other long-lived greenhousegases (nitrous oxide (N 2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons(HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF 6) andperfluorocarbons (PFCs)), ozone and aerosol supported by their precursors(in particular nitrogen dioxide (NO 2), sulphur dioxide (SO 2), formaldehyde(HCHO) and carbon monoxide (CO))OceanicSurface: sea-surface temperature, sea-surface salinity, sea level, sea state,sea ice, surface current, ocean colour, carbon dioxide partial pressure, oceanacidity, phytoplanktonSubsurface: temperature, salinity, current, nutrients, carbon dioxide partialpressure, ocean acidity, oxygen, tracersTerrestrialRiver discharge, water use, groundwater, lakes, snow cover, glaciers and icecaps, ice sheets, permafrost, albedo, land cover (including vegetation type),fraction of absorbed photo-synthetically active radiation, leaf area index,above-ground biomass, soil carbon, fire disturbance, soil moistureWe influence these variables more than we mayrealize. When we move to urban areas, use water,clear forests, use fossil fuel-powered transportor consume products and services generated byheavy industries, we influence climate variables.The climate system is dynamic. A shift in onevariable influences other variables, triggeringyet more changes.Getting facts to make decisionsFor governments to understand and managetheir response to climate change, they needsustained global observations of EssentialClimate Variables as a minimum. The need forenhanced systematic climate observation systemsis outlined in several Conventions, suchas the United Nations Framework Conventionon Climate Change, and is addressed by WMOand its network of National Meteorological andHydrological Services, with partners.The umbrella for climate observation coordinationand establishment of the requirements formeasurements of Essential Climate Variablesis the Global Climate Observing System.10

Sponsored by WMO, the IntergovernmentalOceanographic Commission of UNESCO, theInternational Council for Science and the UnitedNations Environment Programme, it helps definethe needs for observations that are achievedthrough the WMO Integrated Global ObservingSystem, the Global Ocean Observing Systemand other observation systems. It uses the50 Essential Climate Variables as a benchmarkto measure progress of the observing systemsover time.To constitute climate data, weather data fromthousands of stations worldwide are collectedand averaged for each locality for 30 years.The data are used to create a “climate normal”,which is the average of weather values over a30-year period.Observing land, atmosphere and oceans• The WMO Global Observing System, set up in the 1960s, has over 11 000 stations for landbasedobservations, some 1 300 observing stations that monitor the atmosphere vertically,and about 4 000 ships and 1 200 buoys that observe several atmospheric and oceanicparameters.• The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch ensures monitoring of greenhouse gases, ultravioletradiation, aerosols and ozone from 22 global and 300 regional centres, and produces regularupdates on the state of greenhouse gases and the ozone.• The Global Ocean Observing System conducts modelling analysis of ocean variables foroperational ocean services. The IOC of UNESCO is the lead, with WMO, UNEP and ICSU asco-sponsors.• The World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS) is a WMO programme aimingat improving the basic observation activities, strengthening international cooperation andpromoting the free exchange of data in the field of hydrology.• Satellites: the space-based subsystem of the Global Observing System offers meteorologicaland environmental and continuous coverage, information exchange and research anddevelopment. The backbone is the WMO Space Programme.• The Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) is a WMO-initiated programme that collectsmeteorological data worldwide by using commercial aircraft.• Argo, an international project which is the mainstay for ocean observations, uses 3 000 underwaterfloats. The WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme is an importantcontributor.• The Global Terrestrial Observing System conducts modelling, analysis and informationexchange for Earth-based ecosystems. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UnitedNations is the lead agency, and WMO, UNEP and UNESCO are co-sponsors.• Thousands of volunteers also contribute their observations to National Meteorological andHydrological Services databases worldwide.11

BEYOND DAYS AND WEEKSIn the past, humans relied mostly on collectiveexperience to forecast the next day’s weatheror predict the forthcoming season. In somecommunities, they relied on specialists thatcould interpret the alignment of stars and thesolar system. Today, societies are much moresophisticated, and there is strong demand forreliable and refined weather forecasts andclimate predictions.There has been a revolution in forecasting,backed by rapid advances in observation networks,weather and climate research, complexnumerical models to simulate weather andclimate, supercomputers and telecommunications,meteorological theory and a solid trackrecord of international collaboration.Models that combine atmosphere simulations andocean simulations, known as ocean–atmospherecoupled models, are used to predict or simulate theclimate for months, seasons, years and decadesin advance with steadily increasing confidence.They are also used to develop climate scenariosfor a century and beyond for various plausiblesustainable developmental pathways of society.Weather forecasts up to two weeks aheadToday’s forecast for seven days ahead is asaccurate as a two-day forecast was in the 1970s.People now use weather forecasting data tomake decisions related to conditions at sea, thepath of forest fire smoke or volcanic ash, roadice conditions, crop viability and the movementof pests such as locusts. Advanced weatherforecasting models are being used for virtuallyall socio-economic sectors.Seasonal forecastsUseful information on probable weather conditionsfor months to a season ahead has now becomepossible, especially in low latitudes. There is abetter understanding and numerical modelling ofthe interaction between oceans, the atmosphereand land surfaces.One of the best-known large-scale patterns isdescribed below.El Niño/La NiñaEl Niño and La Niña are among the best-knownterms of climate science, used to denote the twoopposite extremes of the same phenomenonof coupled air–sea interaction that plays out inthe tropical Pacific Ocean. The two events arestrongly coupled with changes in atmosphericpressure and the associated large-scale circulationpatterns, and are the opposite phases ofair–sea interactions, collectively referred to as12

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). An El Niñoor La Niña event occurs once in two to sevenyears. The phenomenon typically lasts 9 to12 months, though occasionally it can last for twoyears. These events disrupt the normal patternsof tropical precipitation and atmospheric circulation,and have widespread impacts on climatein many parts of the world accompanied by theassociated climate-related risks.The term El Niño, which literally means “boychild” in Spanish, was coined by Peruvian fishermento refer to the phenomenon that appearsaround Christmas (akin to the appearance of theChrist Child). Every few years, the temperature ofthe normally cool surface waters of the easternPacific Ocean increases, lasting several months.In turn, the warmer waters affect the atmosphere,and rainfall and surface temperatures increasesubstantially. El Niño has caused drought andeven forest fires in Australia, Indonesia and inparts of South America, but also weaker summermonsoons in South Asia and West Africa.El Niño is also associated with heavy rainfall andfloods in parts of eastern Africa. However, not allinstances of unusual weather during El Niño canbe attributed to it. Regional and local conditionscan make El Niño impacts worse, or converselythey can block the impacts.La Niña, a Spanish term that literally translatesto ”girl child”, is characterized by unusually coldocean surface temperatures in the central andeastern tropical Pacific, and is the opposite ofEl Niño. During La Niña years, the opposite conditionsprevail, even in terms of the impacts. Forinstance, parts of Australia, India and Indonesiaare prone to drought during El Niño, but aretypically wetter than normal during La Niña. Thesevere flooding in Queensland, Australia, in late2010 and early 2011 is a striking example of theimpact of La Niña.Other examples of important patterns include theNorth Atlantic Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipoleand Madden–Julian Oscillation.From weather forecasts to climate changeprojectionsClimate change is the change in average climaticconditions in a place or region over a time periodranging from decades to hundreds of years.Normal weather as defined by WMO is obtainedby calculating the average weather parameterssuch as rain, snow and temperature over a 30-yearperiod.The climate change projections and impact assessmentsfor decades to a century ahead were initiallybased on atmospheric general circulation modelsincorporating the impacts of greenhouse gases.Then the oceans were added to the models torepresent a coupled ocean–atmosphere system.Today, the most complex models involve interactionsamong an increasing number of climatesystem components, including the atmosphere,the oceans, the land and the cryosphere. Thesemodels have helped us to better know our climate,our influence on it, and how climate change mayaffect us.Further investment in climate services will help usrefine climate information including predictionsand projections so that all decision-makers canplan timely, locally-based, well-informed andcost-effective mitigation and adaptation measuresand mainstream climate risk management.13

THE SIGN OF THINGS TO COMEToday there is general agreement on what theglobal climate might broadly look like over thenext several decades. Warming of the climatesystem is unequivocal, as is now evident fromglobal warming trends, melting ice and snow,and a rise in sea level.The 100-year (1906–2005) linear trend in globalmean temperature is 0.74°C. Global average sealevel has risen since 1961 at an average rate of1.8 mm per year. Satellite data since 1978 showthat annual average Arctic sea-ice extent hasshrunk by 2.7 per cent per decade. From 1900to 2005, precipitation increased significantlyin eastern parts of North and South America,northern Europe and northern and central Asia,but has declined in the Sahel, the Mediterranean,southern Africa and parts of southern Asia.Major trends associated with climate changeGreater threat from natural disastersOver the past 50 years, nine out of ten naturaldisasters around the world have been caused byextreme weather and climate events. Storms,floods, droughts, heatwaves, duststorms, wildfiresand other natural hazards threaten the livesand livelihoods of millions of people worldwide.Climate models suggest that several weatherextremes are likely to increase in frequency and/orintensity in a world which experiences increasinggreenhouse gas concentrations. Rising sea levelsfrom melting of glaciers and thermal expansionof ocean water threaten coastal communities andsmall islands. Some countries could lose muchland which is now available to grow food, buildhomes and work. Floods, storm surges and tropicalcyclones could force many people to relocate.Weather and climate extremes affect every sectorof society, from agriculture to public health, water,energy, transport and tourism, and overall socioeconomicdevelopment. A single natural disastercan significantly set back economic progress inany given community. Hurricane Ivan in 2004caused losses in Grenada of about 2.5 times itsannual gross domestic product. The floods inMozambique in 2000 destroyed, in less than 10days, more than 10 years of development effortsthat had led to improved water supply, healthservices, food security and economic growth.Communities exposed to the greatest risk are indeveloping countries, least developed countriesand economies in transition. Their populationsare concentrated in sensitive coastal areas, andthey have less diversified economies and fragileinfrastructures, combined with weak capacity forrisk reduction and disaster management. Thepoor are most vulnerable, as they lack resourcesto protect themselves.14

In brief: climate change affects us allPeople occupy all regions of the globe, from the tropics to polar regions, rural to dense urban areas,hillsides to large flood plains and deserts, and lakesides and riversides to coastlines and estuaries.Urban areasAbout half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, compared with one-third some fiftyyears ago. Megacities therefore loom as giant potential flood, heat and pollution traps, withimplications for the local and global climate. The urban poor live in the most disaster-proneareas, such as slopes prone to landslides.Coastal and island dwellersSome 40 per cent of the world population lives within 100 km of the coastline. These includethe 60 million inhabitants of small island developing States, who are dependent on oceanresources and tourism. Sea-level rise and changes in ocean temperature and characteristicshave a profound impact on their lives and livelihoods.Indigenous groupsThe Inuit people and various nomadic tribes are among the 370 million indigenous peopleliving in some of the most diverse areas of the world. They occupy 20 per cent of the world’sland surface. Their way of life and cultures are mostly in harmony with nature and adapted totheir environment. Climate change affects their livelihoods, lifestyles and cultures.Least developed countriesThe world’s population has surpassed 6.7 billion and is expected to exceed 9 billion in 2050,with most of the growth among the poorest countries. These countries are especially proneto extreme impacts of climate change.Food insecurityToday, nearly one billion people suffer from malnutrition.In 2008, when agricultural commodityprices doubled within a few months, food riotsoccurred in about 30 developing countries. Fooddeficitcountries are still in a highly vulnerablesituation. World food demand is expected todouble by 2050, due to population growth andsocio-economic development. Climate change willadd pressure to the already stressed food market,affecting agriculture, livestock and fisheries.Agriculture and raising livestock are dominant inthe economies of most countries. The croplands,pastures and forests that occupy 60 per cent ofthe Earth’s surface are progressively exposed toincreased climatic variability.As climate patterns change, so do agro-ecologicalzones, plant diseases and pests, fish populationsand ocean circulation patterns. Climate affectssoil moisture, sunlight for plants and conditionsto which plants are subjected daily. Local climatevariability and global climate change are rapidlyaltering the landscape for food production, bringingsoil degradation and erosion in some areas,while expanding growing seasons in other areas.Rising temperatures also bring new threats ofdiseases and pests to agriculture and forests.The projected rise in frequent, intense droughts,floods, wildfires, heatwaves, frosts, sandstorms15

Close-up: from equator to poleThese close-ups from equator to pole illustrate climate change and variability under way, andthe sign of things to come.United Republic of Tanzania• Mount Kilimanjaro has lost 80 per cent of its glacier cover since 1912, and landslides havebeen observed in the Kilimanjaro region.• Malaria has been observed at higher altitudes.• Rising sea level and saltwater intrusion have led some people along the coast to abandonspring wells. Maziwe Island has been submerged.• Meanwhile, Lake Rukwa receded by about 7 km in the past 50 years.• As 60 per cent of the United Republic of Tanzania is prone to desertification, frequent droughtsare affecting water catchment areas and other ecosystems.Solomon Islands• The country’s 500 000 inhabitants depend on agriculture, forestry and fishing for theirlivelihood.• A major issue is the relocation of communities as the ocean continues to destroy coastalareas and homes. By 2015 most houses in the shoreline may be washed away. During the1980s, the cemetery on one island was 50 metres inland, but is now only about 1 metre fromthe beach and graves have been exposed.• Taro, a staple root crop, is dying due to swamp salinity. Food insecurity is affecting health.• On the larger islands, unsustainable logging affects the main source of income.Melting of ice in the Arctic• Sea-ice loss accelerated dramatically over the last decade:about 2 million km 2 of sea ice melted in summer seasons.• As sea ice melts and thins, air, water and tundra warmup, vegetation alters and the loss of permafrost threatenshuman habitat, fauna and flora and the release of trappedgreenhouse gases, which may increase further the warmingtrend.• Over Arctic Canada and the Russian Federation, vegetationand the insect population are moving farther north. Innorthern Canada, the movement of vegetation is disruptingtraditional feeding and calving grounds of caribou herds.CHRISTIAN MOREL16

and duststorms affects agriculture, livestock,forests and fisheries.In developing countries, 11 per cent of arableland could be affected by climate change, withreduced cereal production in many countries.Crop productivity is projected to increase slightlyin some countries at mid-to-high latitudes anddecrease at lower latitudes. Thus some areas mayfind opportunities, although the overall impactis likely to be negative.Scarce freshwaterWater has emerged as a flashpoint in the balancebetween people and climate. Freshwater sourcesare rapidly declining and degrading. The rapidrise in population, coupled with the increasinguse of water per capita, is a key factor.From drinking supplies to irrigation to hydropower,water is essential for our day-to-dayneeds. Freshwater is essential to food supplies;agriculture consumes over 75 per cent of freshwaterresources worldwide. Climate conditionsalso affect the amount of water available tohydroelectric energy developers and managers.Balancing such needs will be more challengingwith climate change. Higher water temperaturesand more frequent, intense floods and droughtsaffect water quality and availability. Floods triggercontaminants and create stagnant water conduciveto water- and vector-borne illnesses. Risingseas cause salt water to seep into groundwateraquifers on islands and near coastal areas, wherealmost half of the world’s population lives. Aridregions with already scarce water resources willsuffer as desertification extends. High-altituderegions that rely on summer snow or ice meltwill also be affected.At the most basic level, people need freshwaterdrinking supplies. These are increasingly scarce insome areas, such as arid parts of South Americaand Africa, and inland areas of Asia and Australia.New energy challengesClimate affects energy in many ways. Theenergy sector balances multiple demands, fromindustry and agriculture to homes and publicworks. With continued population growth andindustrial development, global energy demandis expected to exceed supply by 20 per cent by2030. Inadequate estimates for electricity demandcan result in power disruptions, such as blackoutsin the United States of America and Canada inAugust 2003, where summer peak energy demandexceeded supply.For traditional oil and gas sources, climate variabilityand change threaten key infrastructures.In the Arctic, higher temperatures cause meltingof permafrost, threatening roads, aircraft landingstrips, oil and gas pipelines, electrical transmissiontowers and natural gas processing plants.Along coasts, storms endanger offshore oil andgas rigs and related infrastructure. Meanwhile,carbon capture and sequestration (collecting thecarbon dioxide from combustion and putting itinto geologic storage under the ground) is beingexplored as a way of mitigating greenhouse gasemissions.Water is essential to the operations of hydroelectricand power plants. Decreased precipitation andincreased evaporation due to higher temperaturesand wind speeds lowers water levels in reservoirs,lakes and rivers, and can significantly reduce theoutput of hydroelectric power stations. Recentdroughts in Africa triggered power shortages,resulting in large losses in industrial production.A 2001 drought in Brazil crippled hydroelectricoperations and led to widespread blackouts inthe country, which generates 85 per cent of itselectricity from hydroelectric power. Conversely,increased snowmelt or precipitation can boosthydroelectricity production.Climate also influences wood energy, an importantresource in developing countries; changesin temperature and precipitation affect forestareas and vegetation. Warming temperaturesand associated changes in rainfall patterns couldboost corn and sugar crops used for biofuels inthe short term, but water shortages and weatherextremes could reduce yields in other areas.When developing biofuels, it will be critical toavoid competition with food security requirements.New opportunities are also emerging forwind and solar power, which are less affectedby climate extremes than hydroelectric powerand biofuels.17

Regional climate change projections for thetwenty-first centuryAfrica• By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stressdue to climate change.• By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severelycompromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.• Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas withlarge populations. The cost of adaptation could amount to at least 5 to 10% of Gross Domestic Product.• By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8% of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range ofclimate scenarios.Asia• By the 2050s, freshwater availability in Central, South, East and South-East Asia, particularly inlarge river basins, is projected to decrease.• Coastal areas, especially heavily populated megadelta regions in South, East and South-EastAsia, will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and, in some megadeltas,flooding from the rivers.• Climate change is projected to compound the pressures on natural resources and the environmentassociated with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and economic development.• Endemic morbidity and mortality due to diarrhoeal disease primarily associated with floods anddroughts are expected to rise in East, South and South-East Asia due to projected changes inthe hydrological cycle.Australia and New Zealand• By 2020, significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur in some ecologically rich sites,including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics.• By 2030, water security problems are projected to intensify in southern and eastern Australiaand, in New Zealand, in Northland and some eastern regions.• By 2030, production from agriculture and forestry is projected to decline over much of southernand eastern Australia, and over parts of eastern New Zealand, due to increased drought and fire.However, in New Zealand, initial benefits are projected in some other regions.• By 2050, ongoing coastal development and population growth in some areas of Australia andNew Zealand are projected to exacerbate risks from sea level rise and increases in the severityand frequency of storms and coastal flooding.Europe• Climate change is expected to magnify regional differences in Europe’s natural resources andassets. Negative impacts will include increased risk of inland flash floods and more frequentcoastal flooding and increased erosion (due to storminess and sea level rise).• Mountainous areas will face glacier retreat, reduced snow cover and winter tourism, and extensivespecies losses.• In southern Europe, climate change is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures anddrought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability,hydropower potential, summer tourism and, in general, crop productivity.• Climate change is also projected to increase the health risks due to heat waves and the frequencyof wildfires.18

Latin America• By mid-century, increases in temperature and associated decreases in soil water are projectedto lead to gradual replacement of tropical forest by savanna in eastern Amazonia. Semi-aridvegetation will tend to be replaced by arid-land vegetation.• There is a risk of significant biodiversity loss through species extinction in many areas of tropicalLatin America.• Productivity of some important crops is projected to decrease and livestock productivity todecline, with adverse consequences for food security. In temperate zones, soybean yields areprojected to increase. Overall, the number of people at risk of hunger is projected to increase.• Changes in precipitation patterns and the disappearance of glaciers are projected to significantlyaffect water availability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation.North America• Warming in western mountains is projected to cause decreased snowpack, more winter floodingand reduced summer flows, exacerbating competition for over-allocated water resources.• In the early decades of the century, moderate climate change is projected to increase aggregateyields of rain-fed agriculture by 5 to 20%, but with important variability among regions. Majorchallenges are projected for crops that are near the warm end of their suitable range or whichdepend on highly utilised water resources.• Cities that currently experience heat waves are expected to be further challenged by an increasednumber, intensity and duration of heat waves during the course of the century, with potential foradverse health impacts.• Coastal communities and habitats will be increasingly stressed by climate change impactsinteracting with development and pollution.Polar Regions• The main projected biophysical effects are reductions in thickness and extent of glaciers, icesheets and sea ice, and changes in natural ecosystems with detrimental effects on many organismsincluding migratory birds, mammals and higher predators.• For human communities in the Arctic, impacts, particularly those resulting from changing snowand ice conditions, are projected to be mixed.• Detrimental impacts would include those on infrastructure and traditional indigenous ways of life.• In both polar regions, specific ecosystems and habitats are projected to be vulnerable, as climaticbarriers to species invasions are lowered.Small Islands• Sea level rise is expected to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards,thus threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support the livelihoodof island communities.• Deterioration in coastal conditions, for example through erosion of beaches and coral bleaching,is expected to affect local resources.• By mid-century, climate change is expected to reduce water resources in many small islands,e.g. in the Caribbean and Pacific, to the point where they become insufficient to meet demandduring low-rainfall periods.• With higher temperatures, increased invasion by non-native species is expected to occur, particularlyon mid- and high-latitude islands.SOURCE: IPCC, 2007: CLIMATE CHANGE 2007: SYNTHESIS REPORT. CONTRIBUTION OF WORKING GROUPS I, II AND III TO THE FOURTH ASSESSMENT REPORTOF THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE. IPCC, GENEVA, 104 PP.19

Environmental threats to our healthClimate change affects our health, as the environmentchanges around us. Climate playsa powerful role in the spread of disease, inregional air quality and in weather extremesthat dramatically change day-to-day living. Itcan trigger a rise in malnutrition, respiratoryinfections, cholera, malaria, as well as deathsand injury from natural disasters. In general,climate-related health risks have the greatestimpact in developing countries and small islandStates, as well as communities not historicallyacclimated to warmer temperatures.As the global climate changes, people in manyareas are at an increasing risk of vector-bornediseases, such as malaria, West Nile virus anddengue fever. The mosquitoes that carry manyof these diseases tend to thrive in warmer, wetterclimates. Likewise, scientists are concernedabout a heightened risk of water-borne diseasesdue to warmer temperatures that may changethe development of pathogens, coupled withincreased rain and flooding, which have an impacton contaminants.A warmer, drier climate increases the frequencyof sandstorms and duststorms, which triggerrespiratory and cardiovascular problems, as wellas transporting some viruses. Heatwaves andurban pollution affect air quality, particularly forchildren, the elderly and people with vulnerableimmune systems.Biodiversity impactsEcological systems are extremely sensitive tochanges in climate conditions. Even the slightestchanges can put a species over the edge andin danger. From the skies to the land, oceansand glaciers, all animals and plants, as well astheir habitats, are at risk from global warmingand the associated changes. Regional climatevariability and change affect biodiversityeverywhere.Damage to rivers, wetlands and lakes threatensfreshwater diversity. Norwegian lemmings dependon dry winters for survival into the spring, andclimate change is bringing wetter winters to theirhabitat in southern Norway.Perhaps nowhere is the biodiversity threat greaterthan in the world’s oceans. The oceans are anatural “sink” for carbon dioxide, continuallyabsorbing the gas from the atmosphere. Coralreefs, referred to as the tropical rainforests of theocean, are facing unprecedented threats becauseof warming, acidification of oceans and increasinglysevere tropical cyclones. About 20 per centof the original area of coral reefs has been lost,with a further 25 per cent threatened in the nextcentury by climate change.Weather extremes also threaten coastal ecosystems,bringing increased erosion and saltwater, and threatening wetlands and mangroves.In Ecuador, about 1 400 kilometres of mangroveswamps and a large number of species, particularlyfish, are in danger of disappearing. Over 100 estuaries,which host rich ecosystems, now have deadzones due to chemical fertilizers that discharge massiveamounts of nitrogen in rivers and nitrous oxidein the atmosphere.Forests – a third of our land surface – are rich inwildlife, wild plant genes for new food crops ormedicines, ecosystems, water and fertile soil.They are at risk from drought and other climateextremes that degrade soil and expand drylands.For example, by the end of the century, 43 percent of 69 tree plant species studied could becomeextinct in Amazonia. Trees from polar latitudesmay be crowded out by species from temperatezones, affecting plants and animals as theymigrate. Meanwhile, the clearing of forests foragricultural and other uses causes 10–20 per centof our planet’s carbon dioxide emissions each year.Societal change in response to climateOur societies have evolved with and rely on particularecosystems. We have over time developedseasons, festivals, food and clothing fashions inline with the seasons. Changes in climate willaffect all aspects of human endeavour includingmigration of communities in search of betteropportunities. Poor communities will be especiallyvulnerable, as their capacity to adapt is limited.Access to reliable climate information andservices will be important for governmentsand communities to make decisions on the bestavailable options.20

LIVING WITH CLIMATEVARIABILITY AND CHANGEAdequate understanding of climate changetrends is essential to address the challenge. Allof us have a role, whether we are in business,government, non-governmental organizations,education, the media or any other part of society.Mitigate and adaptClimate change is now inevitable. Greenhousegases will persist over long periods of time andthe atmosphere will warm progressively. Thisaffects other climate variables, such as thosedescribing the ocean.There is a societal need for mitigation and adaptationto climate change. Mitigation includesactions such as energy efficiency that reduce ourcontribution to the causes of climate change suchas emissions of greenhouse gases. Adaptationrefers to adjustments of natural or human systemsin response to actual or expected climate.Prepare for climate changeSome adaptation is already under way. Dripirrigation where water is scarce, renewableenergy sources, building codes for energyefficiency, dikes to ward off the rising sealevel, risk management insurance schemesand drought-resistant crops are examples, butmuch more needs to be done.These actions will be more effective as theybecome more widespread, and as detailedknowledge about local climate and its evolutionis built into decision-making. The sample ofmeasures below demonstrates the use of climateinformation and services to mitigate and adapt toa changing climate and to manage related risks.Natural disasters – risk insuranceClimate risk insurance will grow for natural disasters.Weather-based information is already suppliedby National Meteorological and HydrologicalServices and the insurance industry is lookingat models for climate change risks. Examples ofpublic and private sector responses to a changingclimate are given below.The World Bank enables developing countries to takeout insurance against the increased risk of climatechange-related storms and extreme weather events.Payouts in the aftermath of natural disasters aretriggered as soon as a predetermined index, basedon rainfall amount and variation of temperatureor wind speed, is reached. The scheme was firstimplemented in Ethiopia in 2006 in collaborationwith the World Food Programme and the NationalMeteorological Services Agency of Ethiopia, andsuccessfully established contingency fundingfor emergency drought response in the form of aweather-index insurance.21

Mauritius operates an insurance scheme for sugarcaneagainst cyclones, droughts and torrentialrain. Farmers pay an annual premium. The lossin a given year is reimbursed based on weatherinformation and the loss incurred, comparedwith the previous period. Thailand has a pilotfor flood-index insurance. Viet Nam is setting upa major weather-index insurance programme.Rising seas – protective actionBy the end of the century, the sea level is predictedto rise by 28 to 58 cm. But it could be even higher,up to one metre, if continental ice sheets meltfaster as temperature rises. The impact of risingseas will be felt most acutely along coasts andislands that may be far away from melting polarice. Adaptation will require further investment incoastal protection, relocation and other measures,based on improved projection of sea-level riseand extreme events.In The Netherlands, a centuries-old system ofdikes keeps the sea at bay, supplemented in recentdecades by an elaborate network of floodgatesand other barriers.One of the cities in the Middle East most at riskfrom rising seas is Alexandria, Egypt; more than58 metres of coastline have vanished since 1989.The city is an industrial centre with 4 millionpeople and a port that handles four fifths of thecountry’s trade. Meanwhile, more than half of thepeople live within 100 kilometres of the coast.Rising seas could trigger migration of tens orhundreds of thousands of people if the fertileNile Delta is submerged. Salt water seeping intothe city’s underground reservoirs is a concern,as is the threat to over 100 endangered speciesdue to ocean acidity. An adaptation strategy isbeing carried out, including the creation of coastalbarriers to reduce the impact of floods.Much of Kiribati is no higher than five metresabove sea level. The seas around the islandhave been rising at about 5 mm per year since1991, and villagers have been forced to moveinland. Coastal floods, less rainfall, diminishedfreshwater supplies and coral reef bleachingthreaten the island. Kiribati is following in thesteps of the Maldives and Tuvalu by preparingfor the relocation of its people as the sea levelthreatens to submerge the nation.Viet Nam has a climate change plan targetingreforestation of the Mekong Delta mangroveforests, which have been disappearing to agricultureand aquaculture. The country is alsoreinforcing and raising sea dikes to keep saltwater from flooding agricultural and other land.New zoning plans, more resilient constructionand infrastructure and watershed managementare also planned, building on climate model dataand hydrometeorological stations in the country.WMO ARCHIVESMany countries are vulnerable to rising seas.22

Food security – revisiting farming practicesSustainable land management, disaster riskmanagement and new green technologies will beamong the solutions to help address food security.Some farmers in Iraq are switching to Indian peainstead of rice, as duststorms and scarce rains stifleefforts to revive farming. Wheat and rice productionsuffered from severe drought in the past twoyears, while the Tigris and Euphrates rivers havedropped to less than one third of normal capacity.In Zimbabwe, climate change is weakeningagricultural productivity. In the last century, overhalf (51.4 per cent) of rainy seasons had belownormal rains. Droughts are more frequent, rainsstart sooner and there are more heavy rains andtropical storms, giving rise to floods. Farmers areplanting more maize, grain and sorghum, whichare drought-tolerant. Adaptation measures includevulnerability assessment of farmers, rainwaterharvesting and traditional farming methods thathelp boost yields. There is need for fertilizers andseed varieties with shorter vegetation periods,crop rotation and educational programmes toadapt to climate change.In Honduras, farmers grow crops among thetrees to control soil erosion, and increase soilfertility and moisture. The technique releasesless carbon dioxide, stabilizes river flows andreduces floods. This practice results in higherand more stable yields.Scarce water – harvesting rainIn the Republic of Korea, Star City in Seoul is acomplex with over 1 300 apartments. The rainwatercatchment area –- 6 200 m 2 of rooftop and45 000 m 2 of terrace – is used for gardening andpublic toilets. Some 3 000 cubic metres of waterare stored under the building in three tanks of1 000 m 3 each. Two tanks collect rainwater andone stores tap water for emergencies. Collectingthe water also mitigates local flooding during themonsoon season.23

MAKING THE BEST CHOICESOur changing climate makes the need for climateinformation more acute than ever. The informationneeds to be packaged in ways that we canunderstand and act upon. Climate information hasto be relevant to our needs, based on where welive and work. The foundation of climate informationis based on harnessing quality observationsand creating reliable seasonal to multi-decadalpredictions and projections, specific to regionsand sectors.Increasingly, managers from many sectors recognizethey are vulnerable to climate variabilityand change, and are working with scientiststo contribute data from their own sectors andnetworks. The transport sector, for example, isalready actively involved in mitigation efforts,and contributes to climate observations througha network of ships and aircraft.The following are some examples of how climateinformation can help us make the best choices.Managing our energy resourcesClimate information is needed to assess risk froma changing climate in the energy sector, whichpowers industrial development, agriculture, tourismand much more. More frequent and intensestorms, for example, can damage energy grids,and floods can damage oil and gas infrastructurelocated along coastlines or river valleys.Energy managers need information to avoidpower shortages, and manage shifting dailyrequirements as well as long-term energyinvestments and planning, especially with moreheatwaves expected in the future. Renewableenergy industries also need climate information.The wind industry is poised for growthand technological developments such as betterturbines are giving the industry a boost. Butwind energy is sensitive to climate change aswell. Damaging high winds can be problematic,as can be windless days that create a drop inenergy. Predictions from climate models willhelp investors and managers with site selectionand management.Development planners and water supply managersneed regional climate information to plan foranticipated seasonal shifts in hydroelectric energy/power supply and demand. More hydroelectricpower transmission lines can be built to connectprojected water-rich areas to drought-prone ones.Most importantly, regions need information as abasis for regional cooperation to diversify energyportfolios, protect against shortfalls of a singleenergy source and stop dangerous depletion ofwater tables. Better management of water levelsin reservoirs, rivers and streams helps moderatethe impact of droughts and floods, benefiting theenergy sector as well as ecosystems.Improving our food supplyKnowing about the rainy or dry season aheadhelps farmers plan their crops. Climate predictionsenable farmers to adjust planting dates,crop varieties and irrigation strategies basedon the projected water availability. They alsogive advance warning of climate patterns such24

as El Niño and La Niña, which bring droughts tosome areas and floods to others.Protecting forests and fisheriesMany countries seek to expand their forest managementpractices, using climate information toshift harvesting patterns, change the mixtureof hardwood and softwood species, and planlandscapes to minimize fire and insect damage.Fishery managers use climate information to altercatch size and breeding conditions to sustainyields of fish stocks.Conserving biodiversityClimate information helps identify regions andwildlife most at risk and allows for the developmentof conservation strategies tailored toparticular areas.Improving public health and humanitarianassistance servicesCloser collaboration between the meteorological,hydrological and public health sectors providescommunities and health and humanitarian agencieswith tools to identify elevated risks, take preventivemeasures and plan effective responses. Workingtogether will also make climate information toolsincreasingly accurate in time and space, andallow for cost-effective prevention, preparednessand mitigation measures. Projection of climateand local impact helps refine assessments ofthe scale of forced migration due to long-termenvironmental changes and extreme weatherand climate events.An example from Bangladesh is the cost ofadaptation in the health sector over the period2010 to 2021. The country expects to spend overUS$ 2 billion to tackle the probable consequencesof climate change including the health risk to30 million people who would be affected. It isalso estimated that by 2030, if no action is taken,over 130 countries may be considered as beinghighly vulnerable to climate impacts.Managing tourism opportunitiesAccurate, reliable climate information can helpmanage tourism opportunities. Ski resorts canbetter plan where to build new ski lifts, which last25 years, based on climate models of temperaturechanges over 30 years. Coastal resorts can shoreup areas that are vulnerable. Sporting events canuse climate predictions to better manage theirwater resources.25

SCIENCE FOR USEClimate science is essential to information andplanning.The main greenhouse gases in 2010 reached thehighest levels recorded since pre-industrial times.Ice cores in Antarctica reveal that present concentrationsof carbon dioxide are well beyond therange of variations during the past 800 000 years.Even if the most stringent mitigation measureswere put in place today, the impacts of climatechange would continue for centuries. Decisionmakersin all sectors increasingly have to managethe risk of the adverse impacts of climate variabilityand change, but often are not getting informationthey need to do so, and to do so efficiently. Theimpacts of climate change go beyond nationalborders, politics and timelines, and beyondsocio-economic status. There is a need for allnations and all disciplines to work more closelytogether to develop more accurate and timelyclimate information that can be integrated intoplanning, policy and practice.We all share the same planet, the same oceans,the same atmosphere and the same multifacetedclimate. Changes in the climate affect all communities,everywhere in the world. A multilateral platform forthe collection and exchange of observations anddata is a must. Unilateral or bilateral actions wouldbe utterly insufficient. Only through a multilateralplatform can nations acquire the information theirpeople need to protect their lives and livelihoodsand adapt to new climatic circumstances. Nocountry, not even the largest ones, can producesuch climate information on its own. The multilateralplatform needs to be intergovernmental,as governments have the ultimate responsibilityto protect the security and survival of their peopleagainst natural disasters and other extremeconsequences of climate change.A Global Framework for Climate ServicesAgainst that background, Heads of State andGovernment, Ministers and high-level policymakersat the World Climate Conference-3 in 2009decided to establish a Global Framework forClimate Services. The Framework should serveas an efficient mechanism for the generation,delivery and application of climate services.Various components are already in place or arebeing established.A unique global networkUnder the aegis of WMO, 189 National Meteorologicaland Hydrological Services monitor, collect, controlquality, process, exchange and archive standardizedclimate data. They form a unique network.Most of these Services operate a Climate WatchSystem to warn against extreme climate eventsthat affect health, agriculture, water resources,tourism and energy. However, present capabilitiesto provide climate services fall short of meetingpresent and future needs, and therefore theseServices are not delivering their full and potentialbenefits. This is particularly the case in developingand least developed countries.To support climate services, high-quality observationsare required across the entire climate systemand for relevant socio-economic variables. Gaps26

in observation networks are especially critical indeveloping countries, where some areas haveless than five per cent of desired observationcoverage. At least 70 countries do not have basicclimate services and 6 countries have no climateservices whatsoever. Capacity-building will be acentral component of the Framework.Regional climate providers forclimate servicesRegional cooperation is a cost-effective way to buildclimate capability and services. WMO RegionalClimate Centres are centres of excellence thathelp deliver operational climate products suchas regional-scale climate monitoring, long-rangeforecasts and related data. These Centres work inclose cooperation with National Meteorologicaland Hydrological Services to meet national needs.Regional Climate Outlook Forums bring togetherregional and national stakeholders to coordinatecontributions and develop consensus-based earlywarnings, seasonal forecasts and climate changeadaptation and mitigation measures, and facilitatecapacity-building.Reaching youThe Framework aims to enhance climate observationsand monitoring, transform that informationinto sector-specific products and applicationsand disseminate those products widely. This willallow us to better manage the risks generated byclimate variability and change.Understanding of the climate system is advancingquickly, but is not being effectively translatedinto services that can inform decision-making. Inparticular, climate prediction should be improvedand efforts made to help users incorporate itsinherent uncertainty into their decision-making.The needs of the user community are diverseand complex. A novel feature of the Frameworkis its users’ interface to strengthen the dialoguebetween the climate service providers and usersof climate services.Action is especially needed to translate climateobservations, research and predictions intoservices for those most vulnerable to climate andweather hazards. Over the next six years, the aimis to facilitate access to better climate servicesin four initial priority sectors, namely agriculture(food security), disaster risk reduction, healthand water. Over the next ten years, the aim isto extend access to better climate services tomore sectors.A planetary joint ventureWMO is leading this endeavour of the United Nationssystem to support adaptation by strengtheningclimate knowledge and its applications acrossall sectors and disciplines. The involvement ofUnited Nations agencies and programmes andall other relevant partners is a prerequisite forthe implementation of the Global Framework forClimate Services and for its potential benefits tofully materialize.27

TOGETHER WE CANClimate change is the most complex challengethat humankind has had to face in recent times.With each successive generation, redressingthe imbalance will be more difficult. The UNSystem Delivering as One mobilizes the extensiveexpertise available within and beyond the UnitedNations system on science, telecommunications,agriculture, health, culture, human rights, transport,trade, forestry, disaster risk reduction andmore, as well as related financial institutions.It brings together the capacities of the UnitedNations system to help communities and countriesmitigate and adapt to climate change.The world has faced environmental challengesbefore. The leadership of the United Nations hasassisted in raising the issues, galvanizing actionfrom different stakeholders, including the public,and reversing the adverse impacts. An exampleis the ozone layer and the environmental impact,including on humans. From the time WMO firstdrew attention to ozone depletion related to humanactivities in 1989, the annual ozone hole in thesouthern hemisphere has stopped increasing insize, and recovery starts to be noticeable. TheVienna Convention on the Protection of the OzoneLayer and the subsequent Montreal Protocol onSubstances that Deplete the Ozone Layer havebeen a model for effective international action.The same concerted effort is required to addressclimate variability and change for mitigation andadaptation efforts. Gaps in our knowledge oflong-term predictions will need to be improved,as well as observations to improve our environmentalsimulations. The impacts on societyand the environment will need to be betterunderstood including on economic activitiesthat drive societal development. Governmentsand communities will need the capacity tounderstand this information, work with it indecision-making and provide feedback to thescientific and research community for furtherimprovements. Information and services needto be accessible to all, in particular the mostvulnerable.In short, the Global Framework for ClimateServices is the modern day answer to an age-oldchallenge – how we, as a modern civilization, usethe best available information at our disposal toadapt to a variable and changing climate.28

Online resourcesThe United Nations System and related organizations have a wealth of online resources aboutclimate. For more information on Climate for you, please see the sites below.United Nations – Gateway to the United Nations system’s work on climate changewww.un.org/wcm/content/site/climatechange/gatewayUnited Nations Volunteers – International Year of Volunteers +10www.worldvolunteerweb.orgThe celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers in 2011 is a newopportunity for the WMO community to increase awareness of the invaluable contribution ofvolunteers to meteorology and hydrology.WMO – World Meteorological Day 2011www.wmo.int/worldmetdayThe World Meteorological Day pages of the WMO Website include the present brochure, accompaniedby an online collection of resources of the United Nations system and related internationalorganizations.

For more information, please contact:World Meteorological OrganizationCommunications and Public Affairs OfficeTel.: +41 (0) 22 730 83 14 – Fax: +41 (0) 22 730 80 27E-mail: cpa@wmo.int7 bis, avenue de la Paix – P.O. Box 2300 – CH 1211 Geneva 2 – Switzerlandwww.wmo.intP-CER_11247

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