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Third World Climate Conference

Geneva meeting to examine vital role of climate information and prediction

Photo: ©FAO/L. Dematteis
Honduran pineapple field destroyed by flooding caused by Hurricane Mitch.
3 September 2009, Geneva/Rome – With climate change increasing the incidence and severity of weather events, agriculture, one of the most climate dependent of all human activities, depends heavily on effective meteorological services which are vital to climate change mitigation and adaptation, said an FAO expert today.

 “The economic costs associated with natural disasters, including extreme weather events, have increased 14-fold in agriculture since the 1950s,” said Alexander Mueller, FAO Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources, speaking at this week’s third World Climate Conference (WCC-3) being held in Geneva.

The aim of the Geneva Conference is to establish an international framework to guide the development of climate services to link science-based climate predictions and information with climate-risk management and adaptation to climate variability. The WCC-3 theme is Climate prediction and information for decision-making: focusing on scientific advances in seasonal to interannual timescales, taking into account multi-decadal prediction.   

The challenges of chronic and acute weather impacts need greater attention at a time when agriculture has an increased role to play in the supply of food, animal feed, fibre and energy. 

Agriculture is the principal livelihood of 70 percent of the world’s poor. Many of these are smallholder farmers, herders, fishers and forest-dwellers, including indigenous people living in climate sensitive areas that are especially vulnerable to climate fluctuations.  

“Even small-scale management of farm lands can immensely benefit from recent advances in climate prediction,” said Mr Mueller.  

Several case studies have demonstrated the benefits of localized adaptation strategies conditioned by reliable climate information to improve food production, farmers’ incomes and food security, he said.  

Traditional farming, fishing and herding are based on long established knowledge and practices that help to safeguard food and agricultural diversity, valuable terrestrial and marine features, livelihoods and food security. Throughout the world, 10 000 cultures and 6 900 languages are involved in thousands of traditional knowledge systems.

However, among the major threats to traditional systems in addition to large-scale commercialization of agriculture, population dynamics, and land-use/land-cover changes are the impacts of climate change.  

Work on weather and climate information and prediction is thus of particular importance to the more than 2.5 billion people who derive their livelihoods from agriculture and related activities.