Climate Data Can be Critical in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States – Here’s How to Get It

When war breaks out, what happens to the weather forecast? Violent conflict disrupts many essential services in developing countries and one of the most overlooked is meteorology, which has surprisingly big consequences for farmers, policymakers, and the aid workers who are there to help.

Without a functioning weather system, it’s significantly harder to prepare for changes of all kinds. Aid and other investments in fragile states can be wasted if decisions are based on faulty assumptions about current or future conditions. But a report from the Canadian think tank International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) offers some guidance to peacebuilding practitioners, pointing out that more climate information is freely available today than ever before.

“A Significant Challenge”

“Climate change poses a significant challenge to the transition of fragile states toward peace and stability,” write IISD authors Simon Mason, Andrew Kruczkiewicz, Pietro Ceccato, and Alec Crawford.

Cruelly, many of the poorest and most conflict-affected countries are facing the worst effects of climate change, thanks to a confluence of natural and human geography. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, changes in rainfall, temperature, and frequency of extreme weather events are projected to be most damaging and the majority of the affected population relies on rain-fed agriculture (while contributing the least to greenhouse gas emissions). These stressors can exacerbate or prolong conflict, and violence in turn can further increase people’s vulnerability to environmental change.

A healthy weather service is fed real-time data by numerous stations and rainfall gauges spread across a territory. This data is collected by a central meteorological service to provide context for current conditions, create forecasts, and issue warnings. Collecting climate data allows you to see trends and predict poor conditions, but during conflicts or periods of instability this infrastructure is often disrupted.

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