The most vulnerable to climate changes

Posted: 31 March 2009

Climate change will affect regions differently, but the most vulnerable to climate change are the developing countries and the poor. They are the least able to adapt to severe changes in their environment and to their livelihoods. Yet they also have the most need for adaptation assistance.

Time trend of natural disasters
Time trend of natural disasters
Time trend of natural disasters. Source: CRED
  • Worldwide, the number of big weather catastrophes has more than quadrupled since the 1960s. The graph above shows the trend of all natural disasters. For a dramatic graphic showing the increase in weather-related natural disasters by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), click here.
  • The average number of people affected by weather-related disasters per million inhabitants between 1994 and 2003 was nearly 60,000 in the developing countries as against only 2,600 in the industrialized countries.

  • Of the natural disasters in 2007, 91 per cent were weather-related disasters. Economic losses from these disasters amounted to $69 billion (USD 2007), far less than the record year of 2005. Economic losses totalled $226 billion, and insured losses reached $105 billion. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina and a succession of moderate hurricane losses, which altogether claimed more than 3,000 lives in Central America and the United States.Flood victim, BangladeshFlood victim, Ganges delta, Bangladesh© Trygve Bolstad/Panos Pictures

  • As oceans warm and fisheries change in response, economies reliant on fisheries will suffer. One study identified these national economics to be most vulnerable to climate change based on the combined effects of projected warming, the large role that fisheries play in these economies, and limited ability of the societies to adapt to impacts and changes: Malawi, Guinea, Senegal, and Uganda in Central and Western Africa; Peru and Colombia in South America; and Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Yemen in Asia.

  • As precipitation patterns change and droughts and floods become more severe in certain regions, local economies reliant on agriculture must also adapt.

  • According to the IPCC, the populations most vulnerable to food stress as a result of climate change are those dependent on local food and water resources that are sensitive to changes in the climate. Also these most vulnerable areas lack the resources to plan for extreme events or cope with the more gradual climate effects.

Related links