Climate change is affecting us all, but its impacts are hitting the poorest and those in poor countries hardest. That means developing countries vulnerable to sudden and slow-onset impacts of climate change need reliable and accurate weather and climate data and information to help them know when and how to protect their economies and communities.
Getting the right information to the right people at the right time can save lives and livelihoods. That’s why hydro-meteorological and climate services (HCS) are essential. They allow for more informed decision making by enabling critical resilience measures such as disaster relief management, early warning systems, and agricultural extension systems to be built into programs and projects.
The climate vulnerability of many poor countries is exacerbated by the fact that hydrometeorological equipment are in desperate need of modernization and expansion. The cost of rehabilitation and improvements to the systems and institutions is costly and needs sustained commitment. But the cost of inaction is higher — according to the World Meteorological Organization, one dollar invested in disaster preparedness can prevent seven dollars’ worth of disaster-related economic losses.
The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) is channeling approximately $200 million to enhance the hydromet systems and development of climate services through countries participating in its Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR).
Every regional and national plan for climate resilience that has been prepared and endorsed under the PPCR - 20 so far - includes investments to strengthen HCS either as stand-alone projects or as part of investments in key sectors – such as water and agriculture.
The PPCR is particularly focused on activities that raise the value and usability of the climate services to the end users, be they farmers or planning agencies. PPCR investments encourage data pooling and sharing across agencies and sectors, while getting attention focused on the needs of end users when developing and delivering climate information tools and services.
In Jamaica, for example, four-fifths of GDP is generated in the coastal area where over 60 percent of Jamaica’s 2.8 million people live. That means a majority of Jamaica’s economy and population - particularly those involved in farming and fishing - are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including storm surges and rising sea levels.
To help communities manage this, the PPCR is contributing $6.5 million to improve climate data and information management. The aim is to make this more accurate, timely, wider in coverage, and easier to access and use by coastal communities, particularly farmers, fishermen, and health care providers. The project will contribute to the foundation Jamaica is building to integrate climate change into decision-making processes and adapt current and future livelihood activities to the variability brought about by climate change.
In Zambia, increased floods and droughts, coupled with aging canal systems that cannot properly drain land for planting, make life difficult for the rural populations along the Kafue and Barotse sub-basins of the Zambezi River. They depend on rain-fed agriculture and natural resource-based livelihoods, such as fishing, forestry, and livestock raising.
Among the solutions being piloted by the World Bank is a free mobile phone text messaging (SMS) system that local people will use to receive and send information about weather conditions. Texts will be monitored by trained teams that will use the freeware to geo-reference and map the origin of text messages.
They will be able to discern quickly and accurately, for example, the extent of floods or emergency needs. Teams will also provide agricultural advice to farmers via SMS, so that they can plan in advance for the forthcoming season. In the longer term, the data collected will help farmers gain a better understanding of climate risks and adapt their crop growing cycle to shifting rainfall patterns.
Climate services aim to protect the most vulnerable and help them not just survive but thrive. The PPCR, the World Bank, and other actors from the local to the regional to the global level will continue to work together to make that vision a reality.