On the sidelines of a recent presentation he made in Bangkok on disaster prevention and preparedness, IRIN spoke to Jan Egeland, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, about progress on the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).
Spearheaded by the World Meteorological Organization and based on research from an expert group Egeland chaired in 2009, GFCS aims to increase and improve interactions between experts who interpret, gather and purvey climate-related information (climate service providers) and the people who use it.
Q: How far has GFCS come in making climate information accessible for the average small farmer?
A: The main problem of global climate services today is that it doesn’t reach the last mile to those who need it the most. So, typically, the farmer who needs to know when to sow or when to harvest in an unpredictable climate doesn’t really get that… More often he doesn’t get the information if he is in a poor and developing country, nor does the doctor who would need to know when malaria will [be] affected by rainfall, or meningitis [by] the course of the wind.
It is also mixed how far the countries come in disaster… There is a big difference from even Vietnam to Cambodia to Nepal in that matter. Some countries are making big headway like China, India, Vietnam and Thailand… But it’s too slow. I am frustrated… We are not making faster progress. Science has come so far and there is so much you can predict now.
Q: What are the chief obstacles to linking climate change adaptation and disaster risk management for sustainable poverty reduction?
A: Clearly the explosive growth in the number of natural disasters is one of the biggest obstacles in poverty reduction. We have seen an increase of natural disasters from around a 100 in [the] 1960s to nearly 500 per year in this decade, so it is [a] four- nearly five-fold increase... It means devastation of some of the poorest countries. It means massive displacement of people.
Q: In addition to climate services, what else is still needed to prepare people to adapt to climate variability?
A: We need to curb climate change. Many believe we are in the same boat, [that] we are equally hit by climate change, which is not true… Norway is not going to get hit by climate change for some time. But if you go to Sahel, go to the coast of Southeast Asia and you see… It’s the number of disasters that has increased dramatically... Monsoons and typhoons have grown tremendously.
In Vietnam, they are talking about one metre of sea rise, which would be a complete disaster for the whole Mekong Delta. So we need to curb climate change, and here it is just horrendous to see that it is not happening… In [climate change] adaptation we could be able to do more… Quite a bit is happening... Science is making big progress but not reaching the final point and that’s a big challenge.