In two days, the event marking World Meteorological Day will hold worldwide. Precisely, March 23, 2023, is this year’s meteorological day. The short form is WMD! Certainly not Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). But our mass ignorance about the nature of this planet, Earth has weaponized against humankind in such proportion that our own devised destructed weapons can hardly achieve. The simple analogy about how we have lived on this planet so far is to imagine oneself being gifted with a beautiful edifice, and the one gifted starts a willful destruction of the home.
Science endeavours are aimed mostly at attempts to “recreate nature”. Nature according to the same science, existed before man started living on earth. So, how do you recreate what you did not create in the first place? The incapacity of science to place itself under the tutelage of natural phenomena is the reason for the mass deaths and destruction of large proportions of the assets he has built over time.
The verdict delivered by World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) is that “half of the countries globally do not have early warning systems and even fewer have regulatory frameworks to link early warnings to emergency plans. Coverage is worst for developing countries on the front lines of climate change, namely Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS)”.
This holds true of our Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMET), its hydrological counterpart and the emergency response agency. No framework exists to coordinate the policies of these federal agencies and coalesce them into one system.
Although huge technological advances have been recorded, “fundamental gaps remain in the global observing system. Far too many people in vulnerable countries lack even rudimentary early warnings that bad weather is heading their way”, the WMO admitted.
Fortunately, under an UN-backed initiative, “WMO is spearheading a new Early Warnings for All initiative to ensure that everyone in the world is protected by early warning systems in the next five years. The initiative embraces the entire WMO community, the wider UN family, development banks and the private sector, including Big Tech companies.
Early warning systems are widely regarded as the “low-hanging fruit” for climate change adaptation because they are found to be relatively cheap and effective in protecting people and assets from weather and climate extremes, including storms, floods and heatwaves to name a few. It is estimated that they provide a tenfold return on investment.
The most important revelation ahead of this year’s WMD is that “the Global Commission on Adaptation found that spending just US$800 million on such systems that would advance early weather warning across developing countries would avoid losses of $3 to $16 billion per year.
Nigeria’s hydrological services agency launched with fanfare the annual ritual of publishing an 82-page 2023 flood outlook for the country. Almanack-like pictures adorn the publication which apart from a few insertions of 2023, it reveals nothing new. This is the only advisory they can offer the farmers. “This year’s annual flood outlook publication serves as a measure to sensitize the populace and create awareness on the inherent dangers of flooding in order to minimize its negative impact,” the report stated. It is not clear whom the report’s target.
Science and innovation are also key tools to protect ocean health, which is why 2021-2030 is the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. This decade will be the decisive period for the realization of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Climate change threatens the achievement of many of these goals.
WMO’s State of the Global Climate reports has tracked changes in the climate system over the years. The reports show how key climate change indicators – greenhouse gas concentrations, surface temperature, ocean heat, ocean acidification, glacier melt, sea ice loss, and sea level rise – are all at record observed highs. We are getting ever closer to the 1.5° C lower temperature limit of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Climate change is leading to more extreme weather and climate events such as longer and more intense heatwaves, heavier rainfall, and more severe droughts. Our vulnerability to the adverse impacts of weather events is increasing in many areas. More people than ever live either in megacities or in high-risk zones such as low-lying, exposed coastal areas and flood plains.
In times past, we read about earlier human communities being evacuated to safer areas whenever the likelihood of catastrophes threatened. They moved and continued living in harmony with the natural phenomena around them. However, in modern times with avaricious claims to pieces of land and the inability to read natural signals, communities stay put, rebuild the devastated assets with a display of uncommon stubbornness and ignorantly set traps for the next generation.
The early warnings our modern science has copied are vastly inaccurate. Where the predictions are precise, it falls short of the necessary action – moving people away from danger zones in collaboration with the government. The only sensible thing course of action is to use science to determine from time to time, zones under danger and ensure that communities under threat know early enough that erecting permanent residences at such places is unsafe.
The National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW) was legislated in 2015 as an offshoot of the AU initiative to curb land degradation, drought and desertification which have been worsened by extreme weather conditions. The singular objective is to boost processes that will improve the livelihoods of the affected communities and reduce poverty including building the resilience of the communities in flood-prone areas
The African GGWSSI protocol targets 2030 to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and create 10 million green jobs. It is envisaged to transform the drylands of Africa from a threat to livelihoods to a provider of livelihoods. “It will transform the lives of millions of people living in poverty and suffering the effects of the climate crisis while breaking the cycle of migration and conflict prevalent in the Sahel.
Nigeria’s Great Green Wall Agency which ought to act as the focal point to supervise and coordinate the implementation of “National GGW priority actions” is certainly one of the least priorities of the government.
The WMO believes that significant new observation and modelling technologies are helping to develop and advance understanding of the “Earth’s complex global weather and climate system and translating to huge economic gains. The Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) can be credited with real-time access to local weather forecasts.
Key sectors such as agriculture, health, water, transport and energy depend largely, on meteorologists and climate scientists for much of their activities.
Every day, “more than 30 meteorological and 200 research satellites, 10 000 manned and automatic surface weather stations, 1 000 upper-air stations, 7 000 ships, more than 1 100 buoys, hundreds of weather radars and 3 000 specially equipped commercial aircraft measure key parameters of the atmosphere, land and ocean surface every day. transmit observations seamlessly on World Information System (WIS).
Although progress has been recorded in the predictability of weather incidences and thus aiding better planning, this advancement is clearly evident only in developed countries. In terms of human casualties during disasters across the world, the least developed countries have suffered the most. Both the early warning and emergency response systems lack advancement similar to the developed world.
Weather trends and predictions have so far been revolutionized by new technologies. Investments from the private sector have also been enormous. However, if we must continue to live the same old way without a clear unlearning of the old system and learn from earth’s geology and topography in the planning of our living and economic activities, natural events will appear to be merciless in their effects on humans and economic assets.
With appropriate investment in science and technology, and through better Public-Private Engagement, the weather and climate enterprise will meet increasing demands for tailored and seamless weather and climate forecasts. Such improvements will provide significant value to all nations.
“Science and innovation are also key tools to protect ocean health, which is why 2021-2030 is the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. This decade will be the decisive period for the realization of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development”. Whether this portends a more science-led future in weather and climate prediction for all countries will be determined by how much commitment the WMO extracts from developing nations.