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Haiti at grave climate risk

Published:Wednesday | November 13, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor

WARSAW, Poland: HAITI NOW tops the list of countries worst affected by extreme weather events, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2014, released Tuesday.

The index - informed by data available from the Munich Re NatCatSERVICE, regarded as one of the most comprehensive natural catastrophe global databases - credits Hurricane Sandy for Haiti's current troubling ranking.

"In the Caribbean country that is still recovering from the devastating earthquake in 2010, the heavy rainfalls fuelled by Sandy not only left 200,000 people homeless, but also destroyed much of the country's crops, which had already been affected by Hurricane Isaac in late August 2012," said the report, authored by Germanwatch's Sonke Kreft and David Eckstein.

An independent development and environmental organisation, Germanwatch's mission is to "actively promote North-South equity and the preservation of livelihoods".

In addition to the prevention of dangerous climate change, the German-based entity advocates for fair trade, responsible financial markets, and compliance with human rights.

Ranked behind Haiti, which saw 128 deaths and incurred losses per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) amounting to 9.53 per cent in 2012, are the Philippines and Pakistan.

The Philippines saw a death toll of 1,408 and losses per unit of GDP of .29 per cent, while Pakistan had a death toll of 662 and losses per unit of GDP of 1.11 per cent.

The list of the top 10 countries worst affected by events, such as heat waves, storms and floods, is rounded out by Madagascar, Fiji, Serbia, Samoa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, and Nigeria.

Affect of humans

The presence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Russia is evidence of human climate change, fuelled by, among other things, increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, the report suggested.

"After facing the hottest summer in 40 years, the Balkan countries suffered from extensive droughts that destroyed most of the crops, amounting to agricultural losses of more than US$2.5 billion in total (in purchasing power parity). In Nigeria, heavy rainfalls in July 2012 triggered the worst floods in five decades, claiming over 400 victims and displacing two million people," the 28-page document noted.

At the same time, it added, the scientific community has advanced to show the linkages between weather events and climate change. Those events, as sited in the report, include:

The hottest summer in at least 500 years in Europe (2003);

The driest winter since 1902 in the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East (2008); and

The record-breaking summer heat and drought since 1880 in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana in the United States (2011).