Storms, Floods, Droughts--And Not Much Help To Weather Them

by Seyward Darby | December 8, 2009

A report released at the Copenhagen summit today calls on wealthy countries to help developing nations adapt to climate change before it's too late. The Climate Risk Index 2010, published by the international climate and development group Germanwatch, "analysed the impacts of weather-related loss events—mainly storms, floods and heatwaves—for all countries currently negotiating in Copenhagen," according to the press release. And the findings are alarming:

* Since 1990, more than 11,000 events have killed some 600,000 people and cost $1.7 trillion.

* The ten most-affected countries within that time-frame were low-income or lower-middle income, the top three being Bangladesh, Burma, and Honduras. (European countries' rankings in the top 25 are almost exclusively due to the 2003 heatwave, which killed roughly 70,000 people.)

* Weather-related events have cost Bangladesh alone about $2 billion per year and caused an approximate 2-percent drop annually in the country's GDP.

* Ongoing climate change is expected to cause even more severe storms, floods, and droughts over time. Data shows, for instance, that "the intensity of tropical cyclones has increased in the past three decades in line with rising tropical ocean temperatures."

The index didn't even account for all suffering. IRIN reports, "The losses resulting from climate events could be much higher. The study did not factor in 'affected people', because the impact of slow-onset disasters, such as droughts which affected predominantly African countries, could not be verified."

The takeaway here? The rich should be helping the poor, but they're dragging their feet. The 2001 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established the Least Developed Countries Fund, which is meant to aid the world's poorest countries as they try to adjust to climate change. According to IRIN, however, the fund has collected only about $200 million to date—far below the several billion needed. Bangladesh was informed it could get only $5 million total from the fund, a member of the country's Copenhagen delegation told IRIN.

Germanwatch's CRI calls on those at Copenhagen to agree to help fund poor countries' most pressing climate-change needs, while also thinking long-term about how best to support them financially, technologically, and otherwise. It's unclear if such progress will be made. But with the leaked, controversial "Danish draft" of the conference agreement weakening the U.N.'s role in managing climate financing and calling on poor countries to take new, specific actions before they can receive adaptation funding, the outlook might be bleak.

(Flickr photo credit: IRRI Images)

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