Climate Information Crucial to Help Reduce Risk, Limit Disaster Damage: Report

The report details ways in which disaster risk managers can improve their decision making by integrating climate information into their operations.

Forecasts can play an invaluable role when used properly in helping humanitarian agencies and governments plan for and prevent disasters, according to a new report launched recently by the American Red Cross.

Climate and weather disasters, from the massive floods in Pakistan, Australia, and Colombia, to the devastating drought in Niger, have claimed thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damages in the last year. According to statistics from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, these types of disasters have risen significantly in the last few decades. Scientists expect changes in climate will make extreme events more frequent and intense in the future.

Governments and humanitarian organizations, such as the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are placing greater emphasis on trying to prevent and minimize the impact of disasters by making earlier and better informed decisions ahead of time. The new report, called A Better Climate for Disaster Risk Management, is the latest in the Climate and Society series produced by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).

The report details ways in which disaster risk managers can improve their decision making by integrating climate information into their operations. Monthly, seasonal, and long-term climate forecasts typically provided by national meteorological agencies and expert institutions such as NOAA and IRI can guide contingency planning, logistical preparations, and resource-allocation decisions. At the same time, information about how the climate is likely to change in coming decades helps disaster managers evaluate how investments made today will stand up to future extremes.

“What we are able to show in the report is that climate information providers and humanitarian actors can effectively communicate and develop useful working relationships,” said the publication’s director, Molly Hellmuth. “And when they do, there is great potential to save lives and reduce the impacts of disasters–which is a real motivation to both groups."

A Better Climate for Disaster Risk Management details this and 16 other examples including: integrating rainfall and hurricane forecasts into planning in post-earthquake Haiti; using climate information to increase long-term food security in Kenya; and using games to help humanitarian workers better understand how to use complex climate information. The key lessons and recommendations in the report include:

Weather and climate information, especially seasonal forecasts, can be used to help reduce the impacts of disasters by informing preparedness, disaster prevention, and emergency response.

Partnerships between climate scientists and disaster risk managers are essential to develop trust and create actionable information.

Climate information needs to be integrated into existing decision-making platforms to ensure disaster managers can use it in their daily activities and that it helps generate concrete action.

Immediate gains can be made to improve disaster risk management in areas of the world where seasonal forecasts are more reliable, and where better-informed humanitarian decisions can provide relatively strong and immediate returns on investment.

Better funding mechanisms linked to climate early warning are needed. Governments, humanitarian organizations and donors should provide stronger support for preparedness and prevention measures, including more systematic funding for early action based on relevant climate information.

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