Press Release | 09 November 2017

Climate Risk Index shows vulnerability of small island states

Increased intensity of storms takes a toll on small island states and poor countries / Since 1997, over 520,000 people have been killed by more than 11,000 extreme weather events

Bonn (9th Nov. 2017). Small island states are amongst the countries most impacted by extreme weather events worldwide. A number of developing countries regularly already have to address weather catastrophes, especially poorer countries like Haiti, Sri Lanka or Viet Nam are facing great challenges. These are some of the key findings of the Climate Risk Index published by Germanwatch today at the climate summit in Bonn.

"Recent storms with intensity levels never seen before have had disastrous impacts on island states", says David Eckstein of Germanwatch, one of the authors of the index. "In 2016, Haiti was hit by the strongest hurricane in over 50 years and Fiji was struck by the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded on the island. This is why Haiti ranks first and Fiji ranks third in the index of the most-impacted countries in 2016." In many of the countries most affected by natural disasters in the past year, extreme rainfall followed periods of severe drought. In Zimbabwe (No. 2 in 2016) for example, rain caused dramatic flooding that killed 250 people and left thousands of people homeless.

In the past 20 years from 1997 to 2016, Honduras, Haiti and Myanmar were impacted the strongest, according to the long-term index. In this period, globally over 520,000 fatalities were directly linked to more than 11,000 extreme weather events. The economic damages amounted to approximately US$ 3.16 trillion (calculated in purchasing-power parity, PPP).

The vulnerability of poorer countries becomes visible in the long-term index: nine of the ten countries most affected between 1997 and 2016 are developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita. "But industrialised nations must also do more to address climate impacts that they are beginning to feel at home. Effective climate protection is therefore also in the self-interest of these countries ", Eckstein emphasises. "For instance, the United States ranks tenth in the 2016 index, with 267 fatalities and US$ 47.7 billion in damages in that year caused by extreme weather."

Some countries - like Haiti, India, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam - are repeatedly hit by extreme weather and have no time to fully recover. Eckstein: "Especially in smaller states, the consequences are hardly bearable. This underlines how important it is to support poor countries in climate change adaptation as well as in dealing with climate-induced loss and damage. Especially at a climate summit under Fijian presidency these issues have to receive the highest priority."

Germanwatch receives its data for calculating the Global Climate Risk Index from the NatCatSERVICE database of the reinsurance company Munich Re, as well as the socio-economic data of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Even though the evaluation of the rising damages and fatalities do not allow for simple conclusions on the influence of climate change on these events, it does give a good impression of the vulnerability of nations.

About Germanwatch:
Germanwatch, based in Bonn and Berlin (Germany), is an independent development and environmental organisation which works for sustainable global development. Germanwatch actively promotes North-South equity and the preservation of livelihoods.