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As Extreme Weather Intensifies, Half the World Still Lacks Access to Early Warnings

While the world has made significant progress in building systems that can alert people to extreme weather, many places still lack access to early warnings, a new report finds.

In November of 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched, at COP27, the Early Warnings for All initiative, which aims to cover the whole world with early-warning systems by the end of 2027. Early warning systems can the reduce damage from weather disasters by 30 percent. One year into the program, the organizations that lead the project — the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the World Meteorological Organization — have released their first progress report.

As of 2023, 101 countries have such systems. That’s six more than in 2022, and twice as many as in 2015. The U.N. calls this progress “significant” but acknowledges “major gaps,” noting that half the world still does not have systems set up to predict and broadcast warnings on multiple hazards, including for floods, droughts, heat waves, and tropical cyclones. This includes more than half of the least developed countries. Many nations lack the minimum number of meteorological observations required to make such forecasts.

“The progress is encouraging but we must not be complacent,” said Mami Mizutori, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. “With an 80 percent increase in the number of people affected by disasters since 2015, and half the world still lacking access to early warnings, it is imperative to take action now to save lives, livelihoods, and assets.”

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