Haiti and the Philippines suffered the biggest climate-related disasters last year, a study showed as United Nations envoys from 195 nations discussed ways to assist countries coping with the impacts of global warming.
Pakistan ranked third in the analysis by Germanwatch, a Berlin-based research group. It gave added weight to the death toll and value of damage compared with the size of the economy and population of a country. It didn’t include damage from this year, including Typhoon Haiyan, which may have killed 10,000 in the last week in the Philippines.
The study, which doesn’t attribute specific weather events to climate change, highlights the risk that developing nations are facing more violent storms and more frequent floods that scientists say are occurring with higher global temperatures. Delegates at the United Nations climate talks this week are discussing a “loss and damage” mechanism to help developing nations cope with the effects of global warming.
“Haiti is the untold story of Hurricane Sandy,” Soenke Kreft, leader of the climate policy team at the German researcher, said today after releasing the report at the talks in Warsaw. “Together with increasing evidence on the fingerprint of climate change, this provides a very powerful message.”
Haiyan, which has moved onto Vietnam and China, is one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded on land. The UN yesterday called it the most powerful in almost 100 years.
Diplomats at the UN conference in the Polish capital are working out details of an agreement they aim to adopt in 2015 that would limit greenhouse gases emissions, which are blamed for global warming.
Hurricane Sandy’s eye didn’t directly hit Haiti, instead passing over neighboring Cuba. Haiti suffered 54 deaths, 12,000 cholera cases and $750 million of damage when it was struck by rain and wind from the storm’s outer bands, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Sandy, which was no longer a hurricane when it hit New York, also caused about $25 billion of insured losses in the U.S. according to Munich Re. The U.S. placed 12th in today’s index, which uses Munich Re and International Monetary Fund data.
Envoys gathered in Warsaw as damage from Haiyan was becoming apparent. Yeb Sano, a delegate from the island nation whose family comes from the largely-leveled city of Tacloban, made a tearful address to delegates yesterday to stop the “madness.”
Sano pledged to fast until there’s “meaningful” progress in the talks. At least 30 representatives from pressure groups have joined the fast in solidarity, including Wael Hmaidan, director of the campaign group Climate Action Network International.
“We will continue until we see political movement or until the end of the COP,” as the conference is known, said Hmaidan, who had his last meal yesterday.
Kreft said in an interview that Haiyan “is going to catapult the Philippines back into the top three, and probably the top for next year’s index, based on past experience.”
Developed nations are also affected. Germanwatch ranked Serbia sixth in 2012, Bosnia and Herzegovina eighth, and Russia ninth. Drought in the Balkans last year destroyed most of their crops, leading to $2.5 billion of economic losses, it said. Madagascar was fourth, Fiji was fifth, Samoa placed seventh and Nigeria 10th.
The index has four inputs: The death toll per 100,000 of population and the economic losses per unit of gross domestic product, which each had a one-third weighting, and the overall death toll and total economic losses in dollars at purchasing power parity, which each had a one-sixth weighting.
Germanwatch also included a long-term ranking for aggregate climate-related risk over the 20 years from 1993 through 2012. On that basis, Honduras was the worst affected, followed by Myanmar, Haiti, Nicaragua and Bangladesh. The Philippines was seventh, and Pakistan, in the top three of the annual index for the past three years, was 12th.
“The recurrence of phenomena clearly indicates that climate change has become a reality for Pakistan,” Muhammad Irfan Tariq, a Pakistani negotiator, told reporters. He said his country had suffered $15 billion of economic losses in the past three years, and urged negotiators to make progress on a mechanism to address so-called “loss and damage.”