As storm clouds gather
G7 Summit

As storm clouds gather

In the years to come, we can expect more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to climate change. The only hope for changing our current course is to seek win-win synergies between climate and sustainable development actions – and get everyone on board

The World Meteorological Organization has confirmed that 2023 was by far the warmest year on record. The eight months between July 2023 and February 2024 were the eight warmest months in a row, being a record in itself. Global sea surface temperatures are at a record high. Human-induced climate change is the main cause.

The scientific community expects more frequent and more intense extreme events worldwide in the years to come. National meteorological and hydrological services and the WMO provide daily evidence of these trends. Urgent action is needed. Concrete steps go from mitigation, including accelerating the energy transition, to supporting adaptation in order to build resilience to climate change. The WMO is deeply involved in many of these actions.

The result of our growing need for energy

There is absolutely no way that humanity’s needs for energy, driven by demography and development, will stop growing in the foreseeable future, as CERN director-general Fabiola Gianotti recently emphasised. This situation must be the basis for any climate thinking.

Schematically put, climate change is the result of our growing need for energy through the combustion of fossil fuels. The dire consequences of extreme weather events and the perturbation of biomes on the planet are increasingly visible.

Aware of all this, countries are developing their Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, to cover the whole economy, to deliver finance on climate action and to ensure adaptation strategies are in place. Scientific knowledge should be the basis for these NDCs.

Moving away from dirty energy means embracing an entirely new paradigm.

This move is costly, economically and politically. This is why we need to increase support for national meteorological and hydrological services to ensure the next generation of NDCs is based on science. This entails collecting better knowledge of the Earth’s system and its changes, delivering fit-for-purpose climate services to support decision making, and developing early warning systems to protect communities from unprecedented natural hazards.

Planet-wide change is needed

Moving away from dirty energy entails huge investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage and electrification. At the same time, it requires new tools to manage energy resources that depend highly on weather and climate and, as such, are also exposed to climate change impacts.

To attain emission objectives, a planetary shift of focus is needed. To produce renewable energy production globally, we need planetary investments, and a new paradigm that is based not on dirty energy, but on quality energy. A holistic approach, including diverse sectors from public to private and academia, and massive support to the developing world is a must to keep the 1.5C° ambition of a post-industrial temperature increase alive.

In parallel, to support this mitigation effort, consequent investment needs to be allocated to climate adaptation, through the delivery of targeted climate services and early warnings to everyone everywhere, and through better measurement of climate and emissions data in all countries. National meteorological and hydrological services become critical actors in this pathway. The WMO is leading two major initiatives to improve their capabilities to effectively achieve this: the Early Warnings for All and the Global Greenhouse Gas Watch.

The benefits of climate adaptation and mitigation

The only way to change our current course is to seek win-win synergies between climate and sustainable development actions.

When placing a greater emphasis on development co-benefits, support for climate action measures can increase. Investments in adaptation measures, such as early warning systems, capacities and infrastructure of hydrometeorological services, enable societies to reduce exposure, build resilience and achieve just, inclusive and climate-resilient development. Early warnings systems provide an estimated ninefold return on investment. The use of hydrometeorological information in the energy sector can help optimise energy production and delivery. However, comparing tracked climate finance flows to estimated climate finance needs exposes a large financing gap. In an average scenario for a 1.5°C pathway, annual climate finance investments need to grow more than sixfold, reaching almost $9 trillion by 2030 and a further $10 trillion through to 2050. The list of potential benefits for mitigation and adaptation measures is long; their systematic documentation can challenge a perception of climate policies’ costliness and help attract much-needed investments. The cost of no action is several times higher than the cost of action: the total cost of inaction between 2025 and 2100 is estimated at $1,266 trillion.

As concerns mount over respecting the 1.5°C target, it is essential to reevaluate the cost of reliance on non-renewable energy and to understand the necessity of investing in quality energy development. Questions linger over whether global policymakers are ready to embrace this new paradigm and make the necessary investments for a sustainable future. These are the questions that must be addressed by anyone taking climate action seriously.