Pakistan, Philippines, Cambodia, India soar up list of climate-impacted in 2013 – report

Saleem Shaikh

LIMA, Peru: Flood-affected countries in Latin America and Asia – mainly Philippines, Cambodia, India and Pakistan – remained the most badly hit by climate change-induced natural disasters in 2011, according to a global climate risk index released on Tuesday.

 The report particularly underlines the climate vulnerability of the region hosting the COP20; four out of the 10 most hit countries are from Latin America and the Caribbean.

 The Philippines soared up the list of the top 10 worst-affected countries because of the strongest tropical cyclone Typhoon Haiyan, followed by Cambodia, India Mexico, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Pakistan, Laos, Vietnam, Argentina and Mozambique.

 The Philippines, which ranked number two on the most affected list last year, moved from 2nd place in 2012 to 1st this year due to the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the country in November 2013, inflicting over US$ 13 billion in economic loss and 6,000 deaths.

 The country is highly vulnerable to typhoons and estimated 20 typhoons hit the country every year, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

 The report ‘Global Climate Risk Index 2015’ launched on the sidelines of two-week UN-led global climate talks in Lima by Germanwatch, which works on environment and sustainable development issues, notes that extreme weather events did not bode well for India and Pakistan as they lost billions of dollars in economic damages last year alone because of flooding and heatwave incidents that are becoming increasingly frequent in the countries.

The Cyclone Phailin battered India’s coastline of the Bay of Bengal in October 2013, the second largest cyclone to ever strike the country. It left behind a trail of devastation and extensive flooding that ruined US$ 4 billion of crops in the heavily agro-based country, according to the report.

Pakistan suffered a four-week long heatwave with temperatures continuously above 38 degree Celsius, leading to damages in all domains of society, the Germanwatch report noted and added that the grave situation worsened by extensive and the worst flooding caused due to lashing monsoonal rains that hit the country in the country’s northeast in August.

The report states that countries including Cambodia and Vietnam have regularly appeared in the bottom 10 list in recent years. But year 2013 proved to be no exception for them.

Cambodia was hit by heavy monsoonal rainfall and widespread flooding throughout the country. Whereas, Vietnam after being stuck by the remnants of Haiyan suffered lashing rainfalls several days later in November 2013 killed 28 people and washed away around 80,000 houses, says the report.

Mexico and Argentina were the only two countries ranked among top 10 the most affected countries, which were hit by tropical storm Manuel and the heaviest rainfall, respectively. The rainfall in Argentina was recorded as the worst in over a century.

Quoting from the latest Climate Risk Index, Sonke Kreft, author of the study and team leader for International Climate Policy at Germanwatch, said that the index’s long-term component, which depicts 1994-2013 period, indicates that major impacts of floods, storms and heatwaves often fall on developing countries with poor adaptation and mitigation capacity to cope with climate change.

During the 20-year period, over 530,000 deaths were caused by more than 15,000 extreme events, as well as nearly US$ 2.2 trillion worth damages occurred to the public infrastructure and agriculture and other sectors of economy, according to the Index report.

He told a news conference on the sidelines of the report launch that of the ten worst affect affected countries between 1994 and 2013, nine were developing countries in low income or lower-middle income country group. Whereas, only one country (Guatemala) was classified as an upper-middle income country.

Haiti, the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere, as well as Honduras and Myanmar remain as the top three most affected countries over the past 20 years.

The Index reflects the particular vulnerability of poor countries climatic risks despite the fact that the absolute financial damages are far higher in richer countries. Loss of the life and personal hardship is also much more widespread especially in low-income countries, it emphasizes.

The report shows that among the top 15 Latin America and Caribbean Group of the UN (GRULAC) worst affected by the climate change diasters during 1994-2013, Peru ranked nine with suffering economic damages to the tune of over US$ 56 billion most of them from recurring floods caused by heavy/erratic rainfall.

“Meanwhile, Sonke Kreft hopes that the results of the Index further boost the awareness for climate protection and spur momentum for adaptation in Asia and the Latin America and Caribbean regions.

“We also believe that the global climate summit in Lima can stimulate action in these countries and facilitate support from the rich countries by extending finances, technology and knowledge,” he said.

In his address to the plenary session of COP20 on Dec 1, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra K. Pachauri, said potential impacts of climate change have already led to food and water shortages, increased poverty, increased displacement of people and coastal flooding.

However, with letting global carbon emissions level continue to rise, the impacts will intensify. And stabilization of atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, which involves moving away from business-as-usual, regardless of the mitigation goal, can help the world cope with these climate impacts.

Spelling out mitigation and adaptation options, Pachauri said that a combination of adaptation measures and substantial, sustained reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can limit climate change risks.

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