The British risk analysis firm Maplecroft has released a 2011 scientific report ranking the top 10 countries at “extreme risk” for impacts from climate change. It’s their Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) 2011.
It’s no surprise to learn that all of the highly vulnerable countries are developing nations and approximately two-thirds are located in Africa. Overall, a third of humanity – mostly in Africa and South Asia – face the biggest risks from climate change. Meanwhile, rich nations in northern Europe will be least exposed.
The top 10 countries at risk for climate change impacts, in order of their vulnerability, are Haiti, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Cambodia, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and the Philippines, according to the Maplecroft report, which was released on October 26, 2011. Many of these countries have high population growth rates and suffer from high levels of poverty.
Six of the world’s fastest growing cities were also singled out by the CCVI as being at “extreme risk” to climate change impacts. These cities included Calcutta in India, Manila in the Philippines, Jakarta in Indonesia, Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh, and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
The risks will come in part from extreme weather events such as drought, cyclones, wildfires and storm surges. These events translate into water stress, loss of crops and land lost to the sea. Although extreme weather has for some time been considered one of the risks of climate change, up to now scientists have been unwilling to link individual weather events with global warming. But that may be changing. Record droughts in Australia and Africa, floods in Pakistan and central America, and fires in Russia and the United States might all be fueled in part by climate change, according to some experts. A new report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – due out next month – is expected to point to strengthening evidence of links between global warming and extreme weather events.
To produce its new report, Maplecroft analyzed the vulnerability of 193 countries to climate change impacts. They first evaluated the degree to which countries will be exposed to extreme weather events and other climate-related natural disasters. Next, the company assessed the ability of countries to cope with climate change impacts by evaluating factors such as governmental effectiveness, infrastructure capacity and the availability of natural resources. Finally, Maplecroft combined all of these data into its Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2011.
The CCVI also maps the adaptive capacity of countries and cities to combat climate change impacts down to a resolution of 25 square kilometers (10 square miles) worldwide.
Overall, the CCVI identified 30 countries at “extreme risk” to climate change impacts.
The report makes clear that it is mostly the poorest sections of society that will bear the brunt of climate change impacts. In contrast, China and the United States emit the most carbon but were in the “medium” and “low” risk categories, respectively.
Charlie Beldon, Principal Environmental Analyst at Maplecroft, stated in a press release:
The expansion of population must be met with an equal expansion of infrastructure and civic amenities. As … megacities grow, more people are forced to live on exposed land, often on flood plains or other marginal land. It is therefore the poorest citizens that will be most exposed to the effects of climate change and the least able to cope with the effects.
Many believe climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world over the 21st century. In late November 2011, representatives from nearly 200 nations will be meeting in Durban, South Africa for an annual Convention on Climate Change. At the conference, the United Nations climate change secretariat is planning to showcase a few examples of public-private partnerships that have been formed to help increase resilience to climate change in developing countries.
Bottom line: The British risk analysis firm Maplecroft released a scientific report ranking the top 10 countries at “extreme risk” for impacts from climate change in late October 2011. This Climate Change Vulnerability Index indicates that all of the highly vulnerable countries identified are developing nations and approximately two-thirds are located in Africa. Overall, a third of humanity – mostly in Africa and South Asia – face the biggest risks from climate change. Meanwhile, rich nations in northern Europe will be least exposed.
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.