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Report identifies top 10 countries at risk from natural disasters

October 6, 2011 | 11:25 am | , Solutions Analyst

Source UNU-EHS, hased on the PREVIEW Global Risk Data Platform, CReSIS, SIESIN and global databases; detailed information at www.WeltRisikoBericht.de

Who’s got the most to lose from climate change? Everyone on the planet, really. But some will feel the near-term impacts more than others. A recent report by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security and the German Alliance Development Works confirms what many inhabitants of Pacific Island nations already know: that these small islands are at the highest risk from natural disasters, and that such disasters are likely to be exacerbated by the effects of global warming.

The World Risk Report 2011 ranks countries based on their level of exposure and vulnerability to natural disasters. The top ten countries at highest risk are Vanuatu, Tonga, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Timor-Leste, Costa Rica, Cambodia and El Salvador. The risk index used in the report measures overall risk based on several components. The first was their exposure to natural disasters like storms, floods, droughts and sea level rise. The second was their susceptibility to damage based on the state of their economy and infrastructure. The report also considered the country’s ability to respond to these disasters through preparedness measures and early warning systems, and finally their ability to adapt to future disasters in a changing climate.

We know that in a changing climate, the risk of many types of natural disasters is dramatically increasing. This report shows how climate change will especially pose a risk to low-lying islands, along with countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh that are particularly susceptible to flooding.

Concerns about such impacts prompted leaders of Pacific Island nations to issue a statement during a recent gathering, calling for urgent international action to reduce global warming pollution. Joined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, leaders at the annual Pacific Islands Forum emphasized that climate change endangers the security, well being and livelihoods of peoples of this region. A sober reminder that these countries are at the front lines of the climate change battle, and that we all need to do our part to help them safeguard their future.

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