Weather Forecast-Based Financing Delivers Good News for Humanitarian Relief
Dramatic and ongoing improvements in weather forecasting technology are enabling humanitarian relief organizations to “fund disaster relief before disaster hits,” veteran meteorologist and climate hawk Eric Holthaus writes on Grist.
“Earlier this month,” Holthaus writes, “the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched the first ‘forecast-based financing’ fund, aiming at using weather predictions to anticipate potential humanitarian crises.”
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In what Red Cross program coordinator Pascale Meige calls “a game-changer,” the permanent fund will help redress the longstanding problem of humanitarian relief relying on “contributions from concerned, wealthy citizens who hear about the catastrophe and care enough to donate long after the worst has already happened.”
What this pattern most often creates, says Holthaus, is “a dangerous gap between the time when help is most valuable—during and immediately after the storm—and when funds arrive, essentially a state of perpetual crisis management.”
Such anticipatory funding has become possible because of the proven and increasing rigour of weather forecasting.
“Just last week, the (U.S.) National Hurricane Center announced that the horrific hurricane season of 2017 was also its best forecast season to date,” Holthaus notes. “A hurricane forecast looking out five days is now as precise as a three-day forecast a decade ago—that’s two extra days for people in harm’s way to make preparations.”
That’s largely because “some of the world’s fastest computers are now devoted to predicting the weather,” he explains. On the front lines, ever more accurate predictions ever further ahead will mean “fewer lives lost, more efficient use of aid money, and a burgeoning culture of preparedness”, all of which will make a big difference as the world braces for climate change.