Climate risk monitoring and early warning systems to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate variability

“The state of food security and nutrition in the world”, a 2018 global report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO),  highlights the negative impacts of climate variability and extremes on food security and nutrition.

The publication also shows how tools and interventions such as climate risk monitoring and Early Warning Systems (EWS) contribute to improving the resilience and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

According to the report, three factors are behind the recent trends affecting food security and nutrition in multiple ways and challenging people’s access to food are conflict situations, climate shocks  and economic slowdowns. These frequent and intense climate extremes are threatening to erode and reverse gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition.

Tools and intervention aids such as risk monitoring and early warning systems, emergency preparedness and response, vulnerability reduction measures, shock-responsive social protection, risk transfers and forecast-based financing, and strengthened governance structures in the environment–food–health nexus are examples of the many climate resilience policies, programs and practices.

Climate risk monitoring and early warning systems are among the most well-known tools available to governments and international agencies. They support monitoring multiple hazards – and climate hazards more specifically - in predicting the potential impact of climate risks on livelihoods, food security and nutrition. They are particularly useful when timely alerts help trigger accurate decision-making and early actions at all institutional levels, including in communities.

Another example are Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) systems that focus on consolidating available forecasting information and triggers that put in place preparative and early actions to reduce the impact of a range of different hazards, including climate extremes. Knowledge-sharing mechanisms for vulnerability reduction are also important in preparing both decision-makers and communities to implement early actions for projected shocks and changes.

These tools reduce the impact on all dimensions of food security (food availability, access, utilization and stability), as well as other underlying causes of malnutrition related to child care and feeding, health services and environmental health.

The World Food Programme (WFP), for instance, integrates climate information into early warning systems using groundbreaking technology to help forecast emergencies and respond quickly with quality programmes to deliver life-saving food assistance.

The report also provide guidance on how the key challenges brought about by climate variability and extremes can be overcome in order to achieve the goals of ending hunger and malnutrition in all forms by 2030 and help implement the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG13 that calls for strengthened resilience and adaptive capacity in response to natural hazards and climate-related disasters in all countries.

This climate-related disasters have come to dominate the risk landscape to the point where they now account for more than 80 percent of all major internationally reported disasters. Of all natural hazards, floods, droughts and tropical storms affect food production the most . Drought in particular causes more than 80 percent of the total damage and losses in agriculture, especially for the livestock and crop production subsectors.

Hunger is significantly worse in countries with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability and severe drought, and where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture.

All these resources are essential to respond to this report’s urgent call to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate variability and extremes.

To achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it is essential to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods, and to integrate climate risk monitoring in response to climate variability and extremes.