Global Climate Risk Index: Impacts On Water Resources

BONN, Germany

Environmental organisation Germanwatch released its 15th annual Global Climate Risk Index report 4 December, analysing impacts of weather-related events (storms, floods, heatwaves etc.) and associated socio-economic data. Its aim is to contextualise ongoing climate policy debates, with an important focus on international climate negotiations, by examining real-world impacts over the last year and the prior 20 year period.

The 2020 report evaluates weather activity in 2018 and from 1999 through 2018. The data reveal that Japan, the Philippines and Germany were impacted most in 2018 while Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti rank highest over the entire period reported.

In India in 2019, temperatures of up to 50°C were measured, and extreme water stress was omnipresent. Due to the drought in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and empty water reservoirs, Chennai, a city with over a million inhabitants, could only be supplied with water by trucks and trains. The water supplies for the population had to be accompanied by the police. In 2018 India suffered from one of the longest ever recorded heatwaves, with hundreds of deaths. Prolonged drought and resultant widespread crop failures, compounded by a water shortage, brought about violent riots and increased migration.

Significant increases in extreme weather events in the near future are predicted. Reports show, with a high level of confidence, that climate change, including increases in the frequency and intensity of extremes but also the shrinking cryosphere in the Arctic and high-mountain areas, has led to predominantly negative impacts on food security, water resources, water quality, livelihoods, health and well-being as well as on the culture of human socie- ties, particularly for indigenous peoples.

At this month’s Climate Summit in Madrid (COP25), the second review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage will investigate whether the body fulfills its mandate to avert, minimise and address loss and damage and whether it is equipped to do so in the future. The authors of the report call for COP25 to debate the lack of climate finance to address loss and damage, and implementation of measures for adapting to climate change must be strengthened.

In 2018, almost 500,000 people died as a direct result of more than 12,000 extreme weather events. Economic losses between 1999 and 2018 have been estimated at US$ 3.54 Trillion USD (in purchasing power parities). Heatwaves were one major cause of damage in 2018 and the report highlights the link between climate change and the frequency and severity of extreme heat.

In the longer range analysis, of the ten most affected countries and territories, seven were developing countries in the low income or lower-middle income country group, two were classified as upper-middle income countries (Thailand and Dominica) and one was an advanced economy generating high income (Puerto Rico).

GermanWatch calls for the climate summit to result in: “ a) a decision on how the need for support for vulnerable countries concerning future loss and damage is to be determined on an ongoing basis; b) the steps necessary to generate and make available financial resources to meet these needs; and c) strengthening the imple- mentation of measures for adapting to climate change.