Natural disasters and the urgent need for early warning systems

Carlos Nobre
Senior Researcher, University of São Paulo’s Institute for Advanced Studies
Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio
Chairman, Space Time Ventures
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Super storm Sandy was another painful reminder of the world we live in as climate change progresses. In the past few years, across all continents, severe weather has caused much loss of life and has also taken its toll on assets, infrastructure and economic growth. In Brazil alone, about 12 million people were affected by different disasters between 1994 and 2003. Given the high fatality rate in the state of Rio de Janeiro in early 2011, the importance of dealing with natural disasters comprehensively and nationwide is now a top federal government initiative.

In July 2011, the National Center for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters was created under the Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation. In August 2012, President Dilma Rousseff announced a three-year US$ 8 billion natural disaster and resiliency plan, and investment in making infrastructure more resilient to climate change.

Given the projected increase in climate extremes and the risk implied in the Durban UNFCCC agreement (legally binding greenhouse gas emission reductions for all countries starting only in 2020), it is of utmost importance to scale early warning system capabilities to the wider developing world given the increasing frequency of extreme weather and its impact on the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable people (particularly the poorest) on the planet.

The lack of sophisticated countrywide early warning systems is prevalent in most developing nations. Having a fully operational system is fundamental for increasing resilience and adapting to weather extremes and climate change-related disasters.

We believe that it is critically important to scale open early warning systems platforms for the developing world, working in coalition with relevant governments, national and international R&D institutions, international development organizations and banks to enable key stakeholders to make key decisions. This, in turn, would enable a coalition of public and private risk managers across all sectors of the economy, public and private financial institutions, including insurance/reinsurance companies, to co-develop open risk management platforms.

Authors: Carlos Nobre, National Secretary of R&D Policies, Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation of Brazil and member of the Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability. Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, Chief Executive Officer, Planetary Skin Institute (PSI) and Chair of Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability

Image: Policemen gesture to a driver stranded in a car on a flooded road as waves are whipped up by a typhoon in China REUTERS/China Daily

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