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World Meteorology Day: Understanding clouds and their importance in the climate change era

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Today is World Meteorology Day. This day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our impact on weather behavior and to improve our understanding of climate.

Have you ever been told that when it rains the clouds are crying? Have you ever seen a parent or grandparent store part of the harvest because it looks like we are going to have a long dry season? Have you ever heard someone in your family say the Lake used to be bigger and we used to know when the rain was coming? Have you ever used your cellphone to check the weather or googled the weather before a trip? If you have experienced any of these situations, then you have experienced the evolution and importance of weather forecasting.

The commemoration of World Meteorology Day provides us with an opportunity to appreciate how forecasting weather helps communities and nations to manage the risks linked to changes in climate. The global theme this year is, “Understanding the Clouds.” Clouds play a vital role in regulating the earth’s energy balance, climate and weather. Clouds drive the water cycle and the entire climate system. Understanding clouds is essential for forecasting weather conditions, modeling the impacts of future climate change and predicting the availability of water resources.

Retreating tree canopies, scotching heat waves, flooding and increased incidence of diseases point to changes in global climate patterns that has come to be known as climate change and which makes meteorology very important. These changes call for the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources for economic development and the survival of mankind. Forests and water resources such as wetlands help ensure a healthy environment and are key for the world’s sustainable development. Forests play a vital role in the functioning of the planet's natural systems by regulating local and global weather through their absorption and creation of rainfall and their exchange of atmospheric gases. In this context, urgent actions are needed in Uganda where statistics show that between 1990 and 2005, the country lost 26.3% of its forest cover or around 1,297,000 hectares.

Uganda’s holistic approach to these three commemorations for World Meteorology Day, International Day of Forests and the World Water Day provides us all with an opportunity to recognize good practices to conserve and sustainably harness these three key natural resources: Forests, Water and the Weather. It also gives an opportunity to identify new areas for partnerships to improve results for all.

The United Nations sustainable development agenda known as Agenda 2030 which was agreed upon by world leaders in September 2015 with Uganda as President of the UN General Assembly, calls on all of us to stimulate action for humanity and the planet. The three days we are commemorating shine a light on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) No. 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation, 8 on decent work and Economic Growth, 13 on Climate Action, 14 on Life below water and, 15 on Life on Land. 

Unfortunately, there is glaring evidence that we are increasingly consuming far more of these resources than what the planet can reproduce, putting humanity at risk of hunger, drought, disease and death. Uganda is still grappling with the problem of water resources pollution which is currently on the increase because of the rapid population growth, increased economic and industrial activities, urbanization, disrespect for the environment protection laws and climate change.

The Water and Environment Sector Report of 2016 indicates that Lake Victoria receives 25 tons of biodegradable substances and four tons of plant nutrients every day, from industries, urban centers and fishing villages on the Ugandan side. This has implications on the quality of water for production and development.

Monitoring the atmospheric conditions as well as water levels in Uganda has therefore been at the center of the UN’s partnership with the Government of Uganda on sustainable development. The programmes undertaken are to ensure early warning hydro-meteorological information for planning is available at the National and Sub-National levels, for all the productive sectors in the country.

The interventions of the United Nations over the past year have amplified efforts by the Government of Uganda and other partners to support the country to climate proof its development, notably: the Revision of the National Environment Management Policy to integrate climate change, disaster risk reduction, electronic waste management and oil and gas. In addition, a Biomass Energy Strategy, E- Waste Management Strategy have been developed, while a 24- hour National Emergency and Coordination Centre (NECOC), is in place under the leadership of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Over the past four years, the UN has worked closely with the Government of Uganda to implement three projects that have profound contributions towards sustaining water, weather and climate resources. These are, Strengthening Capacities for Disaster Risk Management and Resilience Building implemented by the OPM; Strengthening Community Resilience to Climate Change & Disaster Risks (SCORE) implemented by the OPM and; Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems (SCIEWS), implemented by the Ministry of Water and Environment.

The Uganda National Integrated Early Warning System (U-NIEWS) bulletin, is published monthly to share data and information on probable disasters which may occur without warning. The bulletin compiled by the Department of Disaster Preparedness within the Office of the Prime Minister is issued on the 15th of every month and shared with Ministries, Departments, Authorities, UN Agencies, development partners and the Public.

The United Nations in Uganda is committed to working with the Government and people of Uganda to ensure that by achieving the National Vision 2040 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the country will also strengthen its resilience to climate change and disaster risks. Uganda, an innovation hub in some many areas, is definitely capable of once again demonstrating global leadership by placing the environment at the heart of its economic transformation and development efforts.

I would like to use this occasion to recognize Uganda’s efforts to protect its natural resources while accelerating its development. I encourage business leaders and Governments to invest in Uganda’s holistic approach and helping the nation conserve its forestry, protect its water sources and make use of the modern meteorological technology to accelerate its transformation into a resilient middle income nation. We have a shared responsibility for protecting our planet, our nations and our people. What are you going to do today to help make this happen?

Blog post Africa Uganda Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable development Climate change and disaster risk reduction

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