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Who's most vulnerable to climate change?

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 28 Sep 2011 10:49 GMT
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By Laurie Goering 

Which countries are going to suffer most from climate change? It’s a hard question to answer, as any U.N. climate negotiator can tell you.

But there’s now an excellent guide that suggests some answers. The Washington-based Global Adaptation Institute has released its annual look at climate vulnerability - a data-rich trove of interactive maps, statistical charts, rankings and other information on which countries are most naturally vulnerable, which suffer governance and other relevant problems, and which are making progress preparing for climate change.

The “readiness matrix”, for instance, suggests that Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Eritrea are the nations least prepared to deal with climate change, while Burundi and Central African Republic are the most intrinsically climate-vulnerable countries.

A disturbingly high number of African countries feature in the “highly vulnerable, least prepared” corner of the matrix. Other states in that category include Yemen, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and India.

The rankings indicate which countries are most vulnerable to - or least prepared to act on - a variety of climate-related threats to food systems, health, infrastructure and water. It’s even possible to correct the rankings for gross domestic product (GDP), to see who’s doing best given their financial limitations.

So which countries are most vulnerable to climate-related hunger? According to the site, it’s Central African Republic, followed by Angola, Mali, Equatorial Guinea and Nauru, a small Pacific island state. India, worryingly, ranks as more vulnerable to hunger than Niger or Chad.

Climate-related water problems are another looming concern. Many countries most vulnerable to water stress are already fragile or conflict-torn – Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Chad.

And which countries face the biggest risk to their infrastructure? It’s no surprise to find low-lying Bangladesh and Pacific states like the Marshall Islands high on the list, given their vulnerability to sea-level rise. But it’s Zambia and Burundi that face the worst threats to infrastructure in sectors like energy and transport, according to the index.

The guide aims to help both governments and private investors calculate vulnerabilities to climate change.

As the site notes, “climate change is a reality and the challenge is only greater as population growth, urbanization and economic expansion continue. All countries must adapt in order to minimize the effects of climate change and other global forces.”

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