Bangladesh, India Ranked Most At Risk From Climate Change - Rich Nations' Risk Under-Estimated?

mysore farmland photo

Farmland near Mysore during the dry season, photo: Nikhil Verma/Creative Commons

Some new risk analysis from Maplecroft ranks Bangladesh, India, Madagascar as the top three most at-risk nations for climate change. Nepal, Mozambique, the Philippines, Haiti, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Burma--as in, the usual suspects--round out the top ten. At the other end of the scale Norway, Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Sweden are deemed the least-vulnerable. But does increased drought severity mean rich nations' risk has been under-estimated?

climate change vulnerability index map

Blue areas are those with extreme risk, green is medium to low risk, map: Maplecroft
Poverty, Agricultural Dependence Increase South Asian Risk
Bangladesh got most-at-risk because of "extreme levels of poverty and a high dependency on agriculture, whilst its government has the lowest capacity of all countries to adapt to predicted changes in the climate."

India was ranked second for similar reasons, "acute population pressure and a consequential strain on natural resources...compounded by a high degree of poverty, poor general health and agricultural dependency of much of the populace."

We Are All Entirely Dependent on Agriculture
I know that the agricultural dependency being referred to here by Maplecroft is number of people working in agriculture, and all of the nations ranked in the top 10 of this analysis are certainly extremely vulnerable to climate change, but I can't help but wonder if the true vulnerability of other nations isn't been downplayed.

When it comes down to it, whether we work in agriculture (be it at the subsistence or industrial level, or any place in between) or not, ultimately we are all entirely dependent on agriculture. And water.



In these maps from University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, areas of purple and red show drought conditions exceeding the worst droughts of today, yellow is slight increase in drought severity, green is effectively no change or a slight increase in precipitation, blue is moderate to high increases in precipitation.
Increases in Drought Intensity Could Offset Rich Nations' Climate Risk Advantage
Look at the maps above, which shows some projections for extreme drought conditions by mid-century. With a few exceptions, places that are shown to be at medium to low risk on the Maplecroft analysis have major chances of largely unprecedented drought. And when it comes to the United States--which gets ranked 129 by Maplecroft--those droughts occur right in the middle of prime agricultural land. The same is true for all but the far north of Europe and all of Australia. Those are dust-bowl conditions times ten with no place for the refugees to go.

Interestingly some of the places which are listed as most at risk overall actually have the smallest changes in precipitation and little increase in drought risk--even if other aspects of climate risk are still present.

The assumption here, and in much analysis of climate risk, is that rich nations have a greater financial ability to weather climatic changes than do poor ones and are therefore less vulnerable. Which is undoubtedly true to some degree, but if the drought conditions shown in the map above--based on research just released this week, it should be noted, and perhaps not available to Maplecroft--come to pass, then no amount of money will be able to fully offset resultant economic and ecological impacts throughout the western two-thirds of the US and throughout Europe.

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More on Global Climate Change:
Drought Could Overtake Much of World by 2030, Rise to Unprecedented Levels by 2100
Hey Southeast US! Here's Where Climate Change Is Really Going To Hurt
Rich Nations Have Moral Duty to Compensate Bangladesh for Climate Change Damages

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