Philippines, other poor countries top climate change risk list

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Philippine EnviroNews, Paris, France

Who suffers most from extreme weather events? Honduras, Myanmar, Haiti and the Philippines have been identified as the most affected countries hardest hit by two decades of extreme weather events—typhoons, floods, rising seas, landslides and drought—that killed 525,000 people and caused losses of more than $2.97 trillion.

At the climate change summit here in Paris, the new report showing countries most impacted by extreme weather events between 1995 and 2014 was released on December 3 by the Germany-based Germanwatch, an independent development and environmental organization.

The four top countries mentioned were followed by Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, Thailand and Guatemala.

The report said precipitation, floods and landslides were the major causes of damage in 2014. Countries that are recurrently affected by catastrophes, such as the Philippines and Pakistan, feature both in the long-term index and in the list of countries most affected over the past four years.

“Particularly in relative terms -  poorer, developing countries are hit much harder,” the report said. “These results emphasize the particular vulnerability of poor countries to climatic risks, despite the fact that the absolute monetary losses are much higher in richer countries. Loss of life and personal hardship is also much more widespread, especially in low-income countries.”

For instance, millions of people in the Philippines were affected throughout 2014 by typhoons, tropical storms, floods and landslides. The year’s strongest typhoon, Typhoon Rammasun, killed around 100 people, destroyed over 100,000 houses and damaged 400,000 others.

“The Paris climate summit is the keystone to an international year advancing several international policy issues relevant to reduce impacts of extreme events,” the Germanwatch report said. “Paris needs to deliver a far-reaching and durable climate regime that safeguards affected populations through the agreement of a global adaptation goal, an adaptation policy cycle, support for adaptation investments and an international agenda to address loss and damage.

The link between climate change and extreme weather events

Climate change-related risks stemming from extreme events such as heat waves, extreme precipitation, and coastal flooding, are already being observed as highlighted in the  2014 Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The frequency of heat waves has increased in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia. Likewise the number of heavy precipitation events has increased in most land regions. Especially in North America and Europe, the frequency or intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased.

The IPCC has already predicted that risks associated with extreme events will continue to increase as the global mean temperature rises. However, the link between certain weather events and climate change is still a frontier in science.

According to the report, a bundle of studies published by the American Meteorological Society in 2015 researched the causes of weather events in 2014 and their connection to climate change. The studies show that anthropogenic climate change increased the likelihood of extreme weather events in 2014, especially the likelihood of heat waves.

But also tropical cyclones turned out to be more likely due to climate change, as an analysis of storms in the Hawaii region has shown.

“For other events such as flooding, it is more difficult to prove the impact of climate change, however this does not mean that it is not there,” the report suggest. “ Furthermore, other human-driven factors increasing climate risks were found, especially reduced drainage capacity due to land-use changes. This emphasizes the importance of integrative approaches to reduce climate risks.”

It is clear that Paris will have to deliver on managing climate impacts in the next few decades, both through adaptation as well as through addressing loss and damage, according to the report.