This article was originally published in ADN Ciudad on 26 March 2022.
According to a private report, the annual number of natural disasters will grow by more than 37% by 2025. Satellite technology will be key to saving lives in emerging economies. Emergency communications must become more accessible for better rescue responses.
Access Partnership, the leading public policy firm for the technology sector, published a powerful study, which together with other institutions linked to the Fair Tech Institute, urgently calls on governments and the private sector to maximise their coordination to cope with the growing impact that natural disasters will have in Latin America.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed in its latest report, published in August 2021, the immediate effects of climate change on a global scale are extensive, rapid and highly accelerated. For cities in temperate latitudes, this would mean more heat waves and shorter and more severe cold seasons. In subtropical and tropical latitudes, it would lead to wetter rainy seasons and much hotter dry seasons. Most coastal cities will be threatened by rising sea levels. While the sum of climate-related disaster types is likely to increase in all regions, emerging countries will be the hardest hit.
Providing unique data, the recently published paper, “The Role of Satellite Communications in Disaster Management”, shows that the impact will be most severe in emerging countries, not only because of their geographical location, but because they are relatively less prepared to adapt.
The paper shows that natural disasters currently cost the agriculture and livestock sectors of these economies more than USD 108 billion. If the level of funding remains low, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that climate change adaptation and natural disaster damage would cost developing countries between USD 280 billion and USD 500 billion per year by 2050, a figure five times higher than previous estimates.
To reduce the socio-economic impact of natural disasters blamed on climate change, governments are encouraged to increase investment in physical and social infrastructure and enable the scaling up and acceleration of wider transformative adaptation strategies. And particularly to have a robust emergency telecommunications plan that includes satellite networks.
The study highlights that the availability of communications systems during emergencies is directly related to the ability to respond quickly and save lives. “Because of their non-terrestrial nature, satellite networks are essential to ensure efficient and accurate information flows during an emergency, especially in complex and evolving events,” said Ivan Suarez, Senior Policy Manager at the Access Partnership.
Many studies have been conducted over the last decade to understand the economic and human loss impact of reducing response times to a natural emergency. “A reduction in response times during this type of natural disaster has a significant impact on mortality, morbidity and property damage costs as demonstrated. Every second counts,” Suarez stressed.
The adoption of new technological strategies and solutions, as a crucial component of disaster preparedness, would allow those individuals who are less connected to communicate during emergency situations, ensuring that emergency communications are more accessible for better rescue responses.
Given the lack of preparedness to bear the financial costs and the need to protect human lives in low-income countries, collaborative efforts between governments and the private sector are urgently needed to maintain adequate National Emergency Telecommunications Plans (NETP). With fewer resources, less technical expertise, fewer policies in place, less investment in infrastructure, less equipment and training, low-income jurisdictions are currently particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.
By ensuring an enabling regulatory environment that allows for the deployment of new satellite-based emergency communications solutions, governments can have the opportunity to save lives and protect the most at-risk communities in these countries.
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