Climate Survival Means Anticipating and Adapting

Alberto Cesar AraujoBy Stephen Leahy


Imagine being able to know months in advance when and where floods or droughts may occur.

That is what over 150 countries participating in the third World Climate Conference, which concluded last Friday in Geneva, pledged to achieve through the creation of a Global Framework for Climate Services.

Today is a landmark day for making climate services available to all people,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), convener of the conference, told over 2,000 climate scientists, sectoral experts and decision-makers.

“Climate services” is the long-distance cousin to weather services or weather forecasting. New technology and better climate science has opened the window to very long range forecasting of climate events like droughts weeks and months in advance.

This year, scientists were able to anticipate unprecedented flooding of the Red River Valley in the United States Midwest months in advance, enabling local communities to prepare and avoid the worst consequences, said Jane Lubchenko, a noted ecologist, administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and head of the U.S. delegation.

“Imagine farmers able to determine what to plant and where, based on drought forecasts three to five years in the future, or coastal communities able to plan for sea level rise and storm intensity,” Lubchenco told IPS.

The proposed Global Framework for Climate Services will “strengthen production, availability, delivery and application of science-based climate prediction and services”.

It will include a Global Climate Observing System, a World Climate Research Programme and climate services information systems and interface. This is largely about capacity-building in developing countries and delivering information in a usable form for decision-makers at all levels, from officials to farmers.

IMG_0111A task force will conduct 12 months of consultations and determine how to implement such an ambitious project. Those recommendations will be reviewed and a plan for implementation adopted at the next WMO congress in 2011.

“Improving development and delivery of climate services will be crucial to future food security,” said Lubchenco.

This is particularly true because climate change is altering the climate system by trapping more heat energy. This means farmers and others can no longer rely on past experience or historical knowledge to anticipate growing conditions for the next or future seasons.

“Society will need information tools to adapt as the climate will continue to be variable and to change notwithstanding steps taken to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Jaarud.

For full story see CLIMATE CHANGE: Survival Means Anticipating and Adapting

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