The 16th edition of the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 published recently by Germanwatch e.V clearly shows that impacts from extreme weather events hit the poorest countries hardest as these are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard and have a lower coping capacity and may need more time to rebuild and recover.
In the Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2021, data from 180 countries were analysed. The most recent data available for 2019 and from 2000 to 2019 was taken into account. The countries most affected in 2019 were Mozambique, Zimbabwe as well as the Bahamas. For the period from 2000 to 2019 Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti rank the highest. Mozambique and The Bahamas are the only two countries that appear in both the lists.
India was the seventh most climate-affected country in 2019, according to the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2021. India ranked 7th on the CRI with a score of 16.67. Reason? The country’s annual monsoon season continued for a month longer than usual. From June to end of September 2019, 110% of the normal rainfall occurred, a record since 1994.
According to the CRI, the floods caused by the heavy rains were responsible for 1800 deaths across 14 Indian states and led to the displacement of 1.8 million people. Overall, 11.8 million people were affected by the intense monsoon season with the economic damage estimated to be US$ 10 billion.
Furthermore, with a total of eight tropical cyclones, the year 2019 was one of the most active Northern Indian Ocean cyclone seasons on record. Six of the eight cyclones intensified to become “very severe”. The worst was Cyclone Fani in May 2019, which impacted a total of 28 million people, killing nearly 90 people in India and Bangladesh and causing economic losses of US$ 8.1 billion.
Mumbai, India’s financial capital witnessed a cyclone situation (Cyclone Nisarga) after nearly 130 years! But such extreme weather events in the northern Indian Ocean will no longer be exceptional. Climate scientists predict that severe cyclones are expected to increase in number and intensity on both the east and west coasts of the Indian subcontinent because of a rapidly warming Indian Ocean. Warmer oceans act like fuel: the heat provides more energy to feed the storms, making them stronger and thus potentially more damaging. Further, warmer air can absorb more moisture leading to an increase in the precipitation associated with the storms, so there is more rainfall during a tropical cyclone.
According to the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC’s) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, anthropogenic climate change has increased precipitation, winds and sea-level events associated with some tropical cyclones, which has increased intensity of multiple extreme events and associated cascading impacts. The IPCC report further highlights that extreme sea-level events that are historically rare (once per century in the recent past) are projected to occur frequently at least once a year at many locations by 2050, especially in tropical regions.
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The global Climate Risk Index (CRI) developed by Germanwatch analyses quantified impacts of extreme weather events like cyclones/storms, floods, heatwaves etc - both in terms of the fatalities as well as the economic losses that occurred. The index is based on data from the Munich Re NatCatSERVICE, which is considered as one of the most reliable and complete databases on this matter worldwide.
The Climate Risk Index (CRI) indicates a level of exposure and vulnerability to extreme events, which countries should understand as warnings in order to be prepared for more frequent and/or more severe events in the future. The heatwaves in Europe, North America and Japan also confirm that high-income countries are feeling climate impacts more clearly than ever before. Effective climate change mitigation is therefore in the self-interest of all countries, worldwide.
Looking at the Bottom 10, Japan is the only country which has achieved this goal. Other Bottom 10 countries like Malawi, India, Niger, the Philippines and Nepal are working on national and local disaster risk reduction strategies.
● Between 2000 and 2019, Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti were the countries most affected by the impacts of extreme weather events.
● Altogether, between 2000 and 2019 over 475, 000 people lost their lives as a direct result of more than 11 000 extreme weather events globally and losses amounted to around US$ 2.56 trillion (in purchasing power parities).
● Storms and their direct implications – precipitation, floods and landslides – were one major cause of losses and damages in 2019. Of the ten most affected countries in 2019, six were hit by tropical cyclones. Recent science suggests that the number of severe tropical cyclones will increase with every tenth of a degree in global average temperature rise.
● In many cases, single exceptionally intense extreme weather events have such a strong impact that the countries and territories concerned also have a high ranking in the long-term index. Over the last few years, another category of countries has been gaining relevance: Countries like Haiti, the Philippines and Pakistan that are recurrently affected by catastrophes continuously rank among the most affected countries both in the long-term index and in the index for the respective year.
● Developing countries are hit hardest because they are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard but have lower coping capacity. Eight out of the ten countries most affected by the quantified impacts of extreme weather events in 2019 belong to the low- to lower-middle income category. Half of them are Least Developed Countries.
● The global Covid-19 pandemic has reiterated the fact that both risks and vulnerability are systemic and interconnected. It is therefore important to strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable against different types of risk (climatic, geophysical, economic or health-related).