A better climate for disaster risk management

A better climate for disaster risk management

How important is information to disaster response?

This paper highlights recent advances in the use of climate information to improve livelihoods and save lives. By analysing experiences like that of the Red Cross in West Africa, it takes stock of the needs and capabilities of the humanitarian community and assesses the types of climate-related information products that may help inform disaster risk reduction and development decision-making processes.

It notes that climate information services offer a range of benefits. While three-day weather forecasts are generally good only for last-minute life-saving decisions, medium-term and seasonal forecasts can be used to guide contingency planning, logistical preparations, and resource management decisions. At longer timescales, information about decadal and climate change trends help disaster managers evaluate how decisions and investments taken today will stand up to future extremes. Information about the past is also important when planning for the future. It further argues that because climate is influenced by seasonal, decadal, and long-term dynamics, disaster managers must work with climate scientists to understand the relative contribution of each of these components to past and future climate. Climate change adaptation strategies that do not take these overlapping forces into affect may be ineffective.

The report offers the following recommendations:

  • partnerships between climate scientists and disaster risk managers should promote knowledge sharing, trust, and the development of innovative solutions
  • initial efforts to integrate climate information into disaster risk management should focus on immediate opportunities and potential quick wins. Practical engagements can be fostered by initially focusing on areas with relatively good seasonal forecast skill and influencing humanitarian decisions that provide strong and immediate returns on investment
  • to ensure that disaster managers can use climate information in their daily activities, information should be integrated into decision-making platforms and attached to decision-making thresholds
  • climate scientists and disaster managers must work together to understand the relative contribution that seasonal, decadal, and long-term trends make to current and future climate
  • climate information providers should tailor their information to the problem at hand, either by refining products with additional analysis or by simplifying the presentation
  • disaster risk managers must enhance their understanding of the potential and limitations of climate information. The development of realistic expectations is vital to maintaining trust with information providers.
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