60-Second Earth

Climate Forecasts for All

International agencies are coming together to provide climate forecasting to countries without it, particularly because they may be hardest hit. David Biello reports

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

Global warming could transform large swaths of Africa: shifting rains, spreading malaria and other insect borne diseases, even changing the size of the Sahara Desert.

Yet, the bulk of the world's climate forecasting has been concentrated on those regions that host the supercomputers that can do it: the U.S., Europe and the rest of the developed world. 

That's set to change. Meeting for just the third time since 1979, the World Climate Conference established a framework last week for extending science-based climate predictions to all. Think the weather forecast, only larger. 

This conference is famous for, among other things, creating the International Panel on Climate Change, whose reports have warned the world of accelerating climate change. The goal of this new framework is to better enable all countries to adapt to that future climate.

To that end, it calls for expanded observations of the global climate, public access to climate data, more climate prediction research and a new Climate Services Information System. This will provide local governments with expected changes to water resources, agriculture, fisheries, forests, even health. 

Of course, climate predictions will also guide adaptation to a warmer globe, and even potentially provide early warnings for natural disasters. But they won't be perfect. As Robert Heinlein said, climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.

—David Biello

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