For the past 14 years, Germanwatch, an independent development and environmental organization that advocates for sustainable development, has ranked countries by their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related risks over a 20-year period. Called the Climate Risk Index (CRI), the most recent list covers the years between 1998 and 2017.
24/7 Tempo used the CRI to explore the basis for the top 30 rankings and supplemented the underlying data with events that have occurred in the past two years. A single event can quickly move a country to the top of the ranks of disaster-prone places.
According to Germanwatch, in the years covered by the current CRI, more than 526,000 people died from the ravages of 11,500 weather events, with economic losses totalling $3.47 trillion. Some of the poorest countries in the world are among among the ranks of countries most devastated by extreme weather. These countries rank high even though monetary losses, an important factor in the rankings, are much higher in wealthier countries.
For all of the countries listed, climate change is considered a major contributor to the extreme weather events in the past two decades, though it is generally not possible to attribute a particular event to climate change. Big-picture analyses that show storms becoming more frequent and dangerous, temperatures reaching historic extremes, and previously predictable rainfall patterns changing from season to season point to impact from climate change. And the effects of climate change are projected to intensify, causing increasingly costly disasters and loss of life.
Ironically, the poor countries suffering the worst catastrophes are also the countries responsible for the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. Even though they are poor, they are among those trying to improve air and water quality, biodiversity, wastewater treatment, and to reduce carbon emissions — these are the countries that are doing the most (and least) to protect the environment.