Its no coincidence that Asia witnessed two of the most devastating cyclones in recent years — Aila in Bangladesh in May 2009 and Nargis in Myanmar exactly a year before. Bangladesh, Myanmar and Honduras rank as the top three countries most affected by extreme weather events, says a report released by at the COP-15 conference.
Overall, an estimated 600,000 people died in 11,000 extreme weather events from 1990 to 2008, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2010, released today.
Others in the top 10 include Vietnam, Nicaragua, Haiti, India, Dominican Republic, the Philippines and China. Only four developed countries figure in the top 20 — Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United States.
“The report clearly demonstrates the devastating impacts of extreme weather events on many poor countries,” says Saleemul Huq, senior scientist at the climate change unit of the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Such extreme weather events are projected to rise due to climate change.
The report was prepared by climate and environment nongovernmental organisation GermanWatch and analyses the losses due to extreme weather events, mainly storms, floods and heat waves.
If by now you, like me, are curious why Africa is missing from the list, it is because of the indicators chosen. The authors looked only at direct impacts of extreme weather events, such as losses to the national economy and lives; and not indirect impacts such as severe drought and food insecurity, which often affect African countries. They also looked at the total deaths and not the total number of affected people.
Ochieng’ Ogodo, SciDev.Net freelance writer