Earth just experienced one of its hottest, and most damaging, periods on record. Heat waves in the United States, Europe, and China; catastrophic flooding in IndiaBrazilHong Kong, and Libya; and outbreaks of malaria, dengue, and other mosquito-borne illnesses across southern Asia claimed tens of thousands of lives. The vast majority of these deaths could have been averted with the right safeguards in place.

The World Meteorological Organization, or WMO, published a report last week that shows just 11 percent of countries have the full arsenal of tools required to save lives as the impacts of climate change — including deadly weather events, infectious diseases, and respiratory illnesses like asthma — become more extreme. The United Nations climate agency predicts that significant natural disasters will hit the planet 560 times per year by the end of this decade. What’s more, countries that lack early warning systems, such as extreme heat alerts, will see eight times more climate-related deaths than countries that are better prepared. By midcentury, some 50 percent of these deaths will take place in Africa, a continent that is responsible for around 4 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions each year.

“The interconnection between climate and health is undeniable,” WMO Secretary-General ​​Petteri Taalas wrote in an introduction to the State of Climate Services report. The assessment has been published annually since 2019. This is the first time its authors have focused exclusively on health.

“Climate services” is an umbrella term for the varied methods governments use to alert communities to pressing climate-related hazards. Seasonal forecasts, flash flood alerts, and excessive heat warnings are all examples. Climate services can be harnessed to safeguard public health, but a small fraction of countries assessed by the report — just 23 percent — use climatological data to inform their surveillance of potential health risks, which means much of the world is at a disadvantage. The report emphasizes that investing in climate services is an effective and relatively affordable way to help the people most vulnerable to the consequences of global warming.

Read the full article about climate data by Zoya Teirstein at Grist.