India among countries worst affected by climate change: Global Climate Risk Index 2021

Published : January 25, 2021 18:19 IST

In the aftermath of Cyclone Fani’s landfall at Itchhapuram in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, about 30 km from Gopalpur of Odisha, on May 03, 2019. Photo: K.R. Deepak

After the cyclone Fani’s landfall in Puri district of Odisha. Photo: Biswaranjan Rout

India was ranked the seventh worst-hit country in 2019 in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, released by environmental think tank and sustainable development lobbyist Germanwatch. The Index, published on January 25 moments before the Global Climate Adaptation Summit began, pushes for the need to support developing countries in coping with the effects of climate change.

According to the Index, which ranked countries according to their vulnerability to extreme weather events, floods caused by heavy rain in 2019 took 1,800 lives across 14 States in India and displaced 1.8 million people. Overall, the intense monsoon season affected 11.8 million people, with the economic damage estimated to be $10 billion (Rs.72,900 crore at $1=INR 72.9). A total of eight tropical cyclones meant that 2019 was one of the most active Northern Indian Ocean cyclone seasons on record. Six of them intensified to become “very severe”. The worst was Cyclone Fani in May 2019 which affected a total of 28 million people, killing nearly 90 people in India and Bangladesh, and causing economic losses of $8.1 billion (Rs.59,066 crore).

Vulnerable people in developing countries suffered most from extreme weather events like storms, floods and heat waves, whereas the impact of climate change was visible around the globe. “Poorer countries are hit hardest because they are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard and have lower coping capacity,” said Vera Kuenzel of Germanwatch. Eight of the 10 countries most affected between 2000 and 2019 were developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita.

Mozambique, Zimbabwe and The Bahamas were the worst-affected countries in 2019. While hurricane Dorian ravaged The Bahamas; Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi were affected by the single extreme weather event of cyclone Idai. Japan and Afghanistan were the other countries that fared worse than India on the Index, while South Sudan, Niger and Bolivia fared better in comparison but still made it to the top 10 worst-affected countries.

Dr Anjal Prakash, Research Director and Adjunct Associate Professor at the Bharti Institute of Public Policy, said, “It is not surprising to know that India appears to be in the top 10 most affected countries in the Global Climate Risk Index of 2021. The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] scientist, has been pointing towards extreme risk an emerging market such as India is going to face due to very rapidly changing climatic conditions. A majority of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture, which is being severely affected by the impact of climate change. This year, India saw many of its cities drowning due to variability of the monsoon system. Many global reports, including IPCC reports, have been pointing this out year after year.”

Dr Prakash is also coordinating lead author of IPCC’s special report on oceans and cryosphere, and lead author in the working group II of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. He said, “What is appalling is the lack of response from the government to safeguard its people against the impacts of climate change. A national adaptation plan was prepared way back in 2008 followed by State action plans. However, most of the plans lack resources so they are integrated into the district development and disaster risk reduction plan. It is high time that the government commissions India’s State and district-specific climate-risk maps to further disaggregate this information to understand which areas need more attention than others.”

Laura Schaefer of Germanwatch said that the COVID-19 pandemic had reiterated the fact that vulnerable countries were exposed to various types of risks — climatic, geophysical, economic and health-related — and that this vulnerability was systemic and interconnected. She said, “It is therefore important to address these interconnections. Strengthening the climate resilience of countries is a crucial part of this challenge. The Climate Adaptation Summit offers the opportunity to take an important step in this direction."

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