This week we’ve turned our attention to the impacts of climate change. Our Geography Tours Development Manager and all-round geography enthusiast, Cath Rule, talks us through the five countries most severely affected by the results of continuing climate change. But first, a little background on current warming trends and the main threats from climate change…
Since 1880, the earth’s average surface temperature has increased by 0.87°C, but the significance of this seemingly small figure should not be underestimated. Since 1970, each decade has been warmer than the previous decade. The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998 and all but one have happened since 2000. According to NASA, the first 6 months of 2016 have been the hottest since records began in 1880, whilst in the Arctic sea ice levels have been at record lows.
The World Bank has identified 5 main threats arising from climate change: droughts, floods, storms, rising sea levels and greater uncertainty in agriculture. What’s more, according to scientists, a rise of 2°C will trigger widespread food shortages, unprecedented heatwaves and more intense cyclones.
Now let’s take a look at the top 5 countries most affected by climate change…
1. Malawi – Most susceptible to droughts
A low income country in southern Africa, most Malawians live in rural areas. The susceptibility of the country to droughts will lead to reduced agricultural yields, which will have a significant impact on the 90% of the population reliant on rain-fed subsistence agriculture. With the country currently experiencing its third drought in last 20 years, the worrying impacts of climate change can already be seen.
2. Bangladesh – Most at risk from more frequent and severe flooding
The rising global temperatures will increase glacial melt from the Himalayas, resulting in the swelling of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and their many tributaries. As a result, it’s estimated that each year anywhere between 30% and 70% of the country could be flooded. In addition, the Bangladeshi coastline is also vulnerable to flooding from rising sea levels. Yet another concern, caused by climate change, is the increased number of cyclones the country is likely to be hit by.
3. Philippines – Most in danger of more frequent and intense storms
The 7,107 Philippines islands are most in danger from more frequent and intense storms. The severity of this threat was experienced in 2013 when typhoon Haiyan struck, resulting in more than 6,000 fatalities, an estimated total damages and losses cost equivalent to $12.9 billion and a trail of destruction across central Philippines.
4. Vietnam – Most threatened by rising sea levels
The Southeast Asian country of Vietnam is most threatened by the risk of rising sea levels. It’s estimated that if there’s a 1m rise in sea level, over 20% of the capital, Ho Chi Minh City, will be flooded, impacting up to 12% of Vietnam’s population and resulting in potential losses of around 10% of GDP. A rise of 5m could hit 16% of land area, 35% of people and 35% of GDP.
5. Sudan – Most at risk of food deficits
The northeast African country of Sudan has been identified by the World Bank as the country most at risk of food deficits as a result of the impact of climate change on agriculture. With most of the land being arid or desert and more erratic rainfall, the country is susceptible to drought and desertification. It’s feared that the rapid projected population growth and displacement due to conflict will result in increased pressure on the demand for food and water.