Poor nations worst hit by extreme weather

Mozambique, Dominica, Malawi and India top list of countries on 2015 climate risk index

MARRAKESH • Four of the 10 countries hammered hardest last year by climate-boosted extreme weather are in Africa, according to a report released at the United Nations climate talks in Marrakesh.

"Africa is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change," said Mr Sonke Kreft, lead author of the Global Climate Risk Index 2017 report, issued annually by risk analysts Germanwatch.

Poor countries in general are more exposed to the ravages of superstorms, drought, heatwaves and flooding, all of which have become more intense and frequent due to human-induced global warming.

"The distribution of climatic events is not fair," Mr Kreft said, noting that the world's least developed countries have emitted only a small fraction of the greenhouse gases heating up the planet.

Mozambique tops the list of nations most affected on the 2015 climate risk index released yesterday, followed by Dominica, Malawi and India. Myanmar, Ghana and Madagascar are also among the top 10.

The index measures level of exposure and vulnerability to extreme events.

Climate models predicting that global warming enhances both the intensity and frequency of such events have been borne out by a crescendo of deadly weather, especially over the last decade.

More than half a million people worldwide died as a direct result of almost 11,000 extreme weather events from 1996 to last year, according to the report, which has been tracking risk, country by country, for over a decade.

Storms, heatwaves, floods and other climate-related natural disasters caused upwards of US$3 trillion (S$4.2 trillion) in damage over the same period.

During those two decades, the countries worst hit were Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti.

The Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand were also among the worst affected, taking into account both lives lost and the cost of damage.

The report does not factor out what percentage of the damage done can be attributed directly to global warming.

The UN talks, tasked with implementing the landmark Paris Agreement inked last December, run through Nov 18.

The agreement seeks to wean the world economy off fossil fuels in the second half of the century, limiting the rise in average world temperatures to "well below" 2 deg C above pre-industrial times.

Japan ratified the agreement only yesterday, four days after the global pact officially entered into force.

Separately, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said yesterday the past five years were the hottest on record, with mounting evidence that heatwaves, floods and rising sea levels are stoked by man-made climate change.

Some freak weather events would have happened naturally but the UN agency said greenhouse gas emissions had raised the risks of extreme events, sometimes by a factor of 10 or more.

"We just had the hottest five-year period on record, with 2015 claiming the title of hottest individual year. Even that record is likely to be beaten in 2016," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Poor nations worst hit by extreme weather'. Subscribe