The year 2017 has thus far witnessed a remarkable number of weather- and climate-related disasters, from a series of powerful hurricanes in the Atlantic basin to floods in West Africa and Asia to severe droughts in the Horn of Africa, Sri Lanka, South Africa and elsewhere. Growing populations, poverty and precarious dwellings in deserts, flood plains and low-lying areas leave many countries increasingly vulnerable to such disasters. A major storm or drought can cut the annual GDP of a developing country by as much as 30%. Countries lacking infrastructure and capacity for adequate early warning systems or effective climate services are particularly exposed to risk. Investing in these systems and services can therefore make an essential contribution to national development.
There are many challenges to overcome. In this issue of the WMO Bulletin, leading experts explore how weather, climate, hydrological, marine and related environmental services are assisting countries to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While each article focuses on a particular SDG, the authors clearly recognize that the 17 SDGs and the 2030 Agenda provide a single integrated programme for action. The cross-cutting nature of the SDGs is a major reason why WMO and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) are actively building and strengthening partnerships with other communities, sectors and disciplines.
The demand for accessible and accurate services will continue to grow in the years ahead. With 2017 on track to be one of the warmest years on record, and greenhouse gas concentrations rising to dangerous levels, this increased demand is being driven in good part by concern over climate change and the changing patterns of weather, hydrology, storms, flooding and drought. It further reflects the recognition that natural disasters undermine the long-term stability of societies and economies, often setting back progress on sustainable development by many years.
Our weather and climate services must also respond to new human vulnerabilities resulting from mass migration, the expansion of megacities, coastal development, and other socio-economic trends of the 21st century. To do so effectively, NMHSs need greater recognition from policymakers, and they need to be further integrated into national development plans. This is essential to ensure that all countries are able to reduce the risks and maximize the opportunities linked to weather, climate and water, thereby achieving the SDGs.
Fortunately, continuing advances in weather and climate science and in technology will enable the WMO community to provide continuously improved services. The tools of our trade include enhanced observations, collaborative research, innovations in service delivery, user engagement, technology transfer, capacity development, technical training, new partnerships and public outreach. The WMO community is committed to providing today’s decision-makers and those of future generations with the information and services they need to manage an increasingly complex and challenging environment.