By DANIEL CRESSEY | NATURE | NOVEMBER 7, 2012
An international framework for providing information about how Earth’s climate will affect everything from health to disaster planning is set to bring order to an area that has given some scientists cause for concern.
The field of ‘climate services’ has boomed in recent years, with various organizations and individuals using climate models to advise policy-makers and local people on crop production, infrastructure planning and disease management. At the first ever ‘extraordinary session’ of the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva, Switzerland, which finished on Wednesday, members of the organization agreed on an implementation plan for a ‘Global Framework for Climate Services’ to manage how such information is gathered and communicated.
“It’s the first time the international community had come together to implement a proper formal framework for climate predictions,” says Julia Slingo, chief scientist of the UK Met Office in Exeter, who has been heavily involved in the process. “This is a real landmark in much the same way as when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established.”
The framework was initially set out in 2009, and this week’s agreement is the result of a lengthy period of consultation and negotiation. More than 300 scientists were consulted, says Jerry Lengoasa, the deputy secretary-general of the WMO.
Lengoasa says the framework will focus on four priority areas: food security, disaster risk reduction, water and health. A series of objectives has been drawn up, beginning with short-term pilot projects to kick-start capabilities in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. There is also an ambitious ten-year plan to provide most of the 70 countries that the WMO has identified as having little or no capability in the area with the capacity to make their own predictions.