The Global Climate Risk Index 2021 released on January 25 shows signs of escalating climate change across all continents and regions. This is the 16th edition of the annual report by Bonn-based environmental think tank Germanwatch that analyses the extent to which countries and regions have been affected by climate-related extreme weather events such floods, storms, heatwaves etc and ranks them.
In 2019, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Bahamas were the hardest hit by extreme weather events, the report said. Japan, Malawi, Afghanistan, India, South Sudan, Niger and Bolivia were among the other affected countries in the top-10. Between the period 2000 – 2019, Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti reported the highest weather-related losses.
“The Global Climate Risk Index shows that poor vulnerable countries face particularly great challenges in dealing with the consequences of extreme weather events,” said David Eckstein, a co-author of the report. “They urgently need financial and technical assistance.”
The report has used data from reinsurance company Munich Re as well as socio-economic data from the International Monetary Fund. It also pointed out that high-income countries are feeling climate impacts more clearly than ever before making mitigation important for all countries worldwide.
Since 2000, extreme events cost the world $2.56 trillion
In the past 20 years 11,000 extreme weather events have been directly linked to over 480,000 fatalities, according to the report. The associated economic losses amounted to US$ 2.56 trillion.
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Eight out of the 10 most affected countries in the 2000-2019 time period are developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita. “Poorer countries are hit hardest because they are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard and have lower coping capacity,” said Vera Kuenzel, also a co-author of the report. “Countries like Haiti, the Philippines and Pakistan are repeatedly hit by extreme weather events and have no time to fully recover before the next event hits.”
Climate change is already affecting public health by pushing up malnutrition levels globally. If current rates of emissions continue, the world will exhaust its carbon budget in the coming decade which could lead to catastrophic environmental change.
“While millions, be it small-scale farmers in Gutu, Zimbabwe or a small scale businesswoman selling agriculture produce in Ntcheu, Malawi have done very little in changing the climate, they are the ones paying the steepest price as their homes get washed away by flash floods every year or their crops are mowed by pests whose occurrence has increased in frequency and magnitude,” said Nellie Nyangwa, regional director for non-governmental organization Oxfam Southern Africa.
During global climate talks, while vulnerable countries fighting for survival often call for climate equity, it is met by little action from the rich countries and high carbon emitters.
The authors of this report have cautioned that the index is not a comprehensive climate vulnerability scoring. While it does take into account the extreme weather events, it does not take into account the slow-onset processes such as rising sea levels, glacier melting or ocean warming and acidification. The data quality too is different across the countries, affecting the results.