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Climate Risk Index: Puerto Rico suffered most worldwide from weather events in past 20 years

By on December 6, 2018

SAN JUAN – In 2017, the hurricane season in the Caribbean Sea was particularly strong and storms are affecting an increasing number of countries. Meanwhile, there are countries that have difficulties to recover as they are regularly hit by weather catastrophes.

In 2017, 11,500 people died because of extreme weather events, and economic damages totaled about $375 billion (calculated in purchasing-power parity, PPP), “the highest weather-related losses ever recorded.” These are some of the key findings of the Global Climate Risk Index 2019, published by Germanwatch at the climate summit in Katowice, Poland.

TheGlobal Climate Risk Index analyses to what extent countries and regions have been affected by impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.). The most recent data available — for 2017 and from 1998 to 2017 — were taken into account.

The countries and territories affected most in 2017 were Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka as well as Dominica. For the period from 1998 to 2017 Puerto Rico, Honduras and Myanmar rank highest.

The Long-Term Climate Risk Index (CRI): The 10 countries most affected from 1998 to
2017 (annual averages).

Germanwatch, an academic and research institution based in Germany, 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).

“Recent storms with intensity levels never seen before have had disastrous impacts,” said David Eckstein of Germanwatch, lead author of the index. “In 2017, Puerto Rico and Dominica were hit by Maria, one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes on record. Puerto Rico ranks first and Dominica ranks third in the index of the most-impacted countries in 2017.”

In many of the countries most affected by natural disasters in the past year, unusually extreme rainfall was followed by severe floods and landslides. This is true also for Sri Lanka (ranked No. 2 in 2017): exceptionally heavy rain caused dramatic flooding that killed 200 people and left hundred thousands of people homeless.

“Poor countries are hardest hit. But extreme weather events also threaten the further development of upper middle income countries and can even overburden high income countries,” Eckstein said.

In the past 20 years, from 1998 to 2017, Puerto Rico, Honduras and Myanmar were impacted the strongest, according to the long-term index. In this period, globally over 526,000 fatalities were directly linked to more than 11,500 extreme weather events. The economic damages amounted to approximately $3.47 trillion.

The vulnerability of poorer countries becomes visible in the long-term index: eight of the 10 countries most affected between 1998 and 2017 are developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita. But industrialized and emerging economies must also do more to address climate impacts which they themselves feel more clearly than ever before, Germanwatch said.

Effective climate protection, as well as increasing resilience, is in the self-interest of these countries.

“For example, the United States ranks twelfth in the 2017 index, with 389 fatalities and US$ 173.8 billion in losses this year caused by extreme weather conditions,” Eckstein said.

“At this year’s Climate Summit in Katowice (COP24), countries should adopt the ‘rulebook’ needed for implementing the Paris Agreement, including the global adaptation goal and adaptation communication guidelines. Loss and damage appears as a cross-cutting issue with significant risk of being used as a negotiation chip,” a briefing on the report reads.

Read the Global Climate Risk Index 2019’s briefing paper here.

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