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Climate Change in Rich Countries

climate-change-rich-countries
While extreme weather events have their most significant impact on poorer vulnerable countries, rich countries are experiencing the effects of climate change to an increasing extent. The exposure and vulnerability of countries to extreme events are indicated by the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) published by Germanwatch. This focusses on both fatalities and economic losses. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the world's richest countries appear high on that list. For instance. For the year 2018, Germany, Europe's most prosperous country, was ranked third on the CRI scale, Japan and The Philippines filling slots one and two respectively.

The Climate Risk Index relates only to the effects of extreme events; it doesn't consider longer-term impacts such as increasing sea depths. It assesses the impact in terms of both loss of human life and the economic impact. The 2018 CRI ranking for all European countries is shown in the table below, which also ranks the number of fatalities and financial losses.

The reason Germany suffered so severely in 2018 was because of a severe heatwave that extended from April until July. During that period temperature soared to a staggering 2.9 degrees C above the seasonal average, making it the hottest period ever recorded in the country. It is estimated that the heatwave alone was responsible for 1,234 human deaths. Furthermore, during the summer rainfall was only 61% of the average level, resulting in a severe drought across 70% of agricultural land. The resulting decline in harvest cost around EURO 3 Billion.

Climate scientists warn that such heatwaves will become more common. Possibly the worst European heatwave occurred in 2003 resulting in tens of thousands of human deaths. In the UK, 2,000 people lost their lives in what is believed to be the hottest summer for 500 years. Such temperatures could become the norm by 2040. Records were broken again in 2019, In France, the all-time highest temperature was recorded, a sizzling 46 degrees C, and deaths attributed to heatwaves during June and July reached 1,435. Record highs were also recorded in the UK, Belgium, Luxenberg, Germany, and the Netherlands. In the UK, a record 38.7 degrees C was recorded at Cambridge, beating the previous 2003 record of 38.7 degrees C recorded in Kent. On both occasions, the severe heat resulted in several hundred excess deaths. 

Throughout Europe, there is an ongoing increase in the frequency of forest fires. In 2018 Sweden experienced its worst-ever fire season, with fires extending over 21,605 hectares. Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the UK were also severely affected with a total of almost 45,500 hectares destroyed. Climate change-related flooding is also becoming increasingly severe across Europe. Since the 1960s, flooding has been increasing on average by 11.4% per decade and in some areas by as much as 17.8%.

According to a recent EU study called PESETA, if global temperatures continue to rise resulting in a temperature increase of 3.5 degrees C, the economic cost to Europe would be €190 billion, a loss of 1.8% of GDP. The rate of weather extremes would double, and annual heat-related deaths would rise to 200,000. Additionally, flood damage would amount to €10 billion, 8,000 square kilometres of forest would be destroyed by fires, seven times more people would be affected by drought, and damage caused by rising sea levels would triple.

Clearly, the impact of climate change is not restricted to the poorer nations. Although the effect on these is generally more severe, rich countries are experiencing an accelerating impact with significant effects on both their economies and the human cost of lives lost prematurely.

"if global temperatures continue to rise resulting in a temperature increase of 3.5 degrees C, the economic cost to Europe would be €190 billion, a loss of 1.8% of GDP."

PESETA - Projection of Economic impacts of climate change in Sectors of the European Union

 2018 CRI Ranks for European Countries

CRI Rank ​Country CRI Score Deaths in 2018Deaths per 100,000 inhabitants (Rank)​Losses in million US$ (PPP) - Rank​Losses per unit GDP in % (Rank)
​3 ​Germany ​13.83 ​3​1​6​36
​11​Greece​23.67​14​4​38​41
​21​Italy​33.67​28​56​8​27
​34​France​46.17​32​62​13​54
​35​Czech Republic​46.83​71​63​28​28
​38​Spain​47.67​33​53​19​64
​41​Poland​49​42​60​22​55
​44​Latvia​50​102​75​32​8
​49​Austria​56​88​89​20​25
​55​Denmark​61.33​93​88​33​33
​62​Netherland​67.17​81​99​24​50
​72​Portugal​70.67​88​92​40​56
​76​Cyprus​73.5​81​13​120​107
​77​Switzerland​73.67​93​98​35​59
​78​United Kingdom​73.83​64​110​17​71
​81​Ireland​76.5​93​80​54​76
​89​Romania​81.67​58​67​80​109
​90​Belgium​84.33​102​112​39​63
​94​Norway​84​102​104​48​73
​95​Luxembourg​84.33​115​115​65​48
​105​Sweden​89​102​111​50​80
​123​Hungary​107.17​81​81​134​133
​126​Croatia​108.33​115​115​101​102
​135​Finland​125​115​115​135​135
​135​Iceland​125​115​115​135​135
​135​Malta​125​115​115​135​135
​135​Moldova​125​115​115​135​135

 Source: Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index 2020

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