2019 State of Climate Services: Agriculture and Food Security

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Madrid, 3 December 2019 - Weather and climate services are vital for sustainable development and climate change adaptation. The benefits of investment greatly outweigh the cost, and yet the capacity to deliver and access these services is uneven and inadequate, according to a new report.

An inaugural report on the State of Climate Services highlights progress, opportunities and challenges in rolling out climate services such as seasonal forecasts, drought advisories and fire danger indices. The report focuses on agriculture and food security, one of countries’ top climate change adaptation priorities and given that progress towards tackling global hunger has recently been reversed.

“Climate information and associated services have demonstrably led to improved agricultural and food security outcomes and benefits for stakeholders in the sector,” says the report, which provides case studies from around the globe.

“The capacities to deliver and access these services are highly uneven across regions and countries, however. The challenge is to strengthen the global-regional-national hydro-meteorological system needed to operationalize and deliver these products and services at country level, particularly in developing countries, so that everybody benefits,” it says.

Climate services investments overall have a cost benefit ratio of one to 10. The evidence suggests that the benefits of investing systematically in strengthening the operational global regional-national hydrometeorological system needed for climate services outweigh the costs by about 80 to one.

The need for climate adaptation, informed by science, is now more urgent than ever.

“Global temperature has already risen to 1 °C above pre-industrial levels. The time left to achieve commitments under the Paris Agreement to remain within 2 °C is quickly running out, requiring immediate action,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

WMO spearheads the Global Framework for Climate Services and prepared the report in partnership with the Adaptation Fund, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the World Bank and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Climate services against global hunger

Food-insecure people are among the people hit the hardest by climate change. Over 80 % of the world’s food insecure live in degraded environments exposed to recurrent extreme events (storms, floods, drought). In a warming world, extreme climate conditions will become more frequent and severe.

A recent report estimated that the number of undernourished people grew from 785 million to more than 821 million between 2015 and 2018; more than 704 million people worldwide were severely food-insecure in 2018 (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2019[1]).

One of the reasons was extreme weather and climate shocks.

At present, 20-80% of the inter-annual variability of crop yields is associated with weather phenomena and 5-10% of national agricultural production losses are associated with climate variability, according to FAO.

A world that is 2°C warmer is likely to have 189 million more food insecure people. This is an increase of around 20% compared with today, according to WFP.

In addition, agriculture suffers 26% of the damage and loss during climate-related disasters in developing countries. In parallel with these trends, the global demand for food will increase by 50% and, in the absence of ambitious climate action, yields may decline by up to 30% by 2050 (Global Commission on Adaptation, 2019).

Informed decisions

The ability to make better decisions through climate services leads to the generation of more value for farmers. It is estimated that improved weather, climate, water observations and forecasting could lead to up to USD 30 billion per year in increased global productivity and up to USD 2 billion per year in reduced asset losses.

The report explains the role of climate services in informing decisions on when to plant and harvest, irrigate and fertilize and how to invest in drought resilient crops and livestock and more efficient irrigation systems.