Climate Change

Midway to 2030, climate change and extreme weather events threaten the achievement of SDGs, warns WMO

Just 15% of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track; WMO advocates for investments for accelerating and scaling up weather, climate and water-related sciences

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 14 September 2023
Representative photo from iStock__

The world is far from achieving its climate targets as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets deadline of 2030 approaches.

Climate change and extreme weather events threaten the achievement of the SDG targets even as just 15 per cent of the SDGs are on track, alerted the World Meteorological Organization in a new report released on September 14, 2023.

Between 1970 and 2021, there were 11,778 reported disasters attributed to weather, climate and water extremes, causing over two million deaths and $4.3 trillion in economic losses, according to estimates in the report.

Over 90 per cent of these reported deaths and 60 per cent of economic losses occurred in developing economies.

Extreme weather events and climate change have a disproportionately negative impact on disadvantaged people, impeding efforts to achieve all 17 SDGs.

These lead to losses of lives and livelihoods, exacerbate poverty and inequality, amplify food and water insecurity, trigger economic instability and, ultimately, undermine sustainable development.

More intense weather has been occurring along with rising global temperatures. The eight warmest years on record occurred from 2015 through 2022.

Five-year running average of global temperature anomalies (°C relative to 1850–1900) from 1850–1854 to 2019–2023 (data to June 2023) shown as a difference from the 1850–1900 average. Six data sets are shown as indicated in the legend 




The possibility that 2023 will be among the warmest years on record rises with a warm start to the year and emergence of the El Nino phenomenon.

Further, there is a 98 per cent chance of at least one year exceeding the warmest year on record in the next five years, projects WMO.

The world is “not on track” to meet the long-term goal of limiting global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, warned UNFCCC too in the first global stocktake technical synthesis report released last week.

2023 has already seen record-breaking extreme weather, climate- and water-related events across the world. In fact, even as the report is released, at least 20,000 people are reported to have likely died in Libya due to deadly floods as a result of Mediterranean storm ‘Daniel’. The event called as ‘medicane’ had also devastated Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria in the first week of September

Therefore, failing to achieve climate targets will undercut efforts made globally to combat hunger, poverty, and ill health, as well as to increase access to clean energy and water and many other aspects of sustainable development.

But the world is not doing enough reminds WMO in the report. The fossil fuel CO2 emissions increased one per cent globally in 2022 compared to 2021. The preliminary estimates from January-June 2023 too have showed a further 0.3 per cent rise.

The emissions gap for 2030, or the difference between emissions reductions pledged by nations and those required to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature objective, has seen very little progress to yet.

But amidst such scenario and challenges, weather-, climate- and water-related sciences have the potential to provide solutions and accelerate progress on SDGs says the WMO report.

“Science is central to solutions. It is widely understood that weather, climate, and water-related sciences provide the underpinnings for climate action. But it is less recognized how these sciences can supercharge progress on the SDGs across the board,” António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations said in the foreword.

The ability to predict hydrometeorological events with astounding accuracy and anticipate future climate changes with decreased uncertainty has advanced and improved throughout the world.

According to the report, advances in early warning systems have decreased mortality rates, and new technologies, such as now casting, artificial intelligence and high-resolution modelling, are revolutionizing the way we predict high-impact weather and water hazards.

This report shows how weather-, climate- and water-related sciences can advance aims such as food and water security, clean energy, better health, sustainable oceans and resilient cities.

There is a direct link between these sciences and eight SDGs which include — SDG (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

For example, weather forecasting and climate projections support agricultural decision-making and production, thereby improving food security to achieve the goal on ending hunger. This in turn, improves livelihoods, reduces poverty and contributes to towads (SDG 1 – No Poverty).

Around 670 million people may face hunger in 2030, in part due to more extreme weather events which disrupt various aspects of food security like access and availability. So early warming can help to identify potential areas of crop failure that may lead to emergencies.

Climate change has been fueling disease outbreaks revealed WHO recently. In this context, WMO says that integrating epidemiology and climate information helps understand and anticipate those diseases sensitive to climate.

Early-warning systems help to reduce poverty by giving people the chance to prepare and limit the impact of climate-led extreme weather events, it said  

Despite this, the role of such science has been undermined in sustainable development. “Weather, climate- and water-related sciences and services are an underutilized tool that can help accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general, WMO in the report.

Over 50 per cent of countries do not have multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWSs) and even in places where they exist, significant gaps in coverage are of concern, reiterated WMO again as effective adaptation measure

Released ahead of the SDG Summit and Climate Ambition Summit at the United Nations General Assembly, the report makes a call for investing in, accelerating and scaling up weather-, climate- and water-related sciences.

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