Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy says while the occurrence of severe weather cannot be prevented, its effects can be prevented by empowering the public to act on time and take the necessary precautions.
Creecy was speaking during a virtual seminar to mark World Meteorological Day (WMD) 2021 on Tuesday.
World Meteorological Day is celebrated annually by countries forming part of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialised agency of the United Nations.
Creecy said climate change is now part of everyone’s lived reality and that across the world, extreme weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, floods and severe storms, threaten communities and ecosystems.
“Without proper observational and communications systems, we will not be able to communicate these threats and make severe weather impact-based forecasts; neither will we be able to collect climate information, which is crucial for agriculture, industry and services. Accordingly, we must constantly strive to maintain and improve our meteorological infrastructure,” Creecy said.
The day was celebrated under the theme, ‘The ocean, our climate and weather’. It also marked the launch of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
Creecy said the service offering of the South African Weather Service (SAWS) can assist society to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
“Internationally, the organisation meets the requirements of the World Meteorological Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and we are extremely proud of its role as Regional Training Centre (RTC), Regional Telecommunication Hub (RTH) and a Global Producing Centre (GPC),” Creecy said.
Poor and vulnerable most affected by severe weather
The Minister emphasised the importance of getting messages and warnings to all communities and weather sensitive industries, especially the most vulnerable people. She said it is often the poor and vulnerable that are most affected by severe weather.
For that reason, Creecy said the role of media is extremely important. She commended media for their daily participation in bringing the weather messages from the SAWS to communities.
“In this regard, I hope we will, as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic permits, begin community-based education programmes with those most affected by extreme weather events. It is a well-known fact that in rural communities, women will carry the burden of climate change, as women and girls carry the responsibility for water and fuel collection, as well as agricultural cultivation.
“Knowledge is power, and so it remains important that we find pandemic-compliant ways to ensure our most vulnerable citizens are equipped to understand that their current experience will not be isolated or be a once-off, but rather part of a global change in weather patterns. It will also be important that we ensure significant adaptation partnerships and funding are linked to those who need it most,” the Minister said.
Weather Service to improve ageing infrastructure
Creecy said the South African Weather Service will, during the next few years, increase its efforts to improve its ageing infrastructure, especially its weather radars and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) support.
“Furthermore, it will continue to grow its pool of highly qualified scientists, weather technologists and other human resources to ensure that we maintain our scientific excellence and competitive edge to face environmental challenges, while also adhering to various regulatory frameworks, national and international priorities,” she said.