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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

India 5th most vulnerable nation to climate crisis: Study

The southwest monsoon in 2018 severely affected India, the analysis said adding that Kerala was especially affected where 324 people died because of drowning or being buried in the landslides set off by the flooding — the worst in a hundred years.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2019 06:43 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sea waves crash close to a habitation in Chellanam area of Kochi, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.
Sea waves crash close to a habitation in Chellanam area of Kochi, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (PTI File )
         

India is the fifth most vulnerable country globally to climate crisis, according to a new analysis released on Wednesday. India recorded the highest deaths due to climate crisis-led disasters and the second highest amount of monetary losses in 2018, said the analysis.

The Global Climate Risk Index 2020 by environmental think tank Germanwatch on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, assessed 181 countries and quantified impacts of climate crisis on them through economic losses, losses to GDP and fatalities to arrive at a ranking.

The index found Japan to be the most vulnerable followed by Philippines, Germany, Madagascar and India. While the poorer countries are understood to be most vulnerable, the index indicates that rich European nations are also extremely vulnerable to severe climate crisis impacts being felt in the past 20 years.

The southwest monsoon in 2018 severely affected India, the analysis said adding that Kerala was especially affected where 324 people died because of drowning or being buried in the landslides set off by the flooding — the worst in a hundred years.

“Over 220,000 people had to leave their homes, 20 000 houses and 80 dams were destroyed. The damage amounted to US$ 2.8 billion. India’s east coast was also hit by Cyclones Titli and Gaja in October and November 2018, with wind speeds of up to 150 km per hour. Cyclone Titli killed at least eight people and left around 450 000 without electricity,” the report said.

Japan remains the most vulnerable, according to the analysis, because it was hit by extreme weather events in 2018. From July 6 to 8, heavy rainfall of more than 200 mm/day was recorded. Torrential rainfall resulted in flash floods and mudslides, killing more than 200 people and leading to over 5 000 houses being damaged and the evacuation of 2.3 million people. The event caused losses to the tune of US$ 7 billion. From the middle of July to the end of August 2018, severe heatwave led to 138 fatalities. And in September 2018, typhoon Jebi made landfall in Japan.

Germany experienced the second hottest year in 2018 since records began. The period between April and July 2018 was the hottest ever recorded in Germany, with temperatures 2.9°C above average and led to the death of 1234 people. Germany received heavy rainfall in January but unusually low rainfall during the summer resulting in 70% of soil being affected by drought. Farmers called for federal emergency relief worth around EUR 1 billion after a massive decline in harvest caused a total loss of EUR 3 billion.

The Climate Risk Index, which is based on data from the Munich Re NatCatSERVICE, one of the largest databases on natural catastrophes, has another set of ranking for the period 1999-2018 which is based on average values over a 20-year period. In the 1999 to 2018 period, Puerto Rico is the most vulnerable followed by Myanmar, Haiti, Phillipines and Pakistan. India is ranked 17 under long term vulnerability. Some European countries, such as France and Germany, also appear in the top 50 most vulnerable countries according to the 20 year risk index. “The appearance of some European countries among the bottom 30 countries can to a large extent be attributed to the extraordinary number of fatalities due to the 2003 heatwave, in which more than 70,000 people died across Europe. Although some of these countries are often hit by extreme events, the relative economic losses and the fatalities are usually relatively minor,” the analysis said.

“The CRI 2020 clearly shows the devastating impacts of climate change induced extreme weather events. COP25 will put Loss and Damage prominently on the agenda as the body dealing with averting, minimizing and addressing Loss & Damage (the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage WIM) will be reviewed in Madrid for the second time,” the index said, adding that the review must come up with a mechanism to effectively assist vulnerable countries in dealing with loss.

M Rajeevan Nair, secretary, ministry of earth sciences, had told HT on Wednesday that “India is facing changes in rainfall patterns due to climate change with prolonged dry spells and a higher frequency of extreme or very heavy rainfall events”. While 12 to 20 cm rain in a day comes under the category of Very heavy rainfall, extremely heavy rainfall is upwards of 20 cm in a day.

Every country is vulnerable to climate change. Some countries are more vulnerable to natural climate hazards such as cyclones, hurricanes, flooding, seawater intrusion and drought. The reason why Japan and Phillipines are topping the list is probably because natural climatic hazards. Even poor countries like Bangladesh have managed to minimise the risk to life and property from cyclones in recent years. Even in India loss of life is minimised but loss to property, livelihood, assets should be accounted for. All districts need disaster management plans,” said Prof NH Ravindranatha of Indian Institute of Science.