A study of countries that have suffered the most from extreme weather events over the past 20 years ranks Nicaragua third in the world for vulnerability to climate change, behind Honduras and Myanmar, according to the 2013 Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index.
The study, presented today at the UN climate summit in Doha, Qatar, shows that impoverished developing countries such as Nicaragua continue to suffer the greatest damage from climate change. Nicaragua alone has registered 44 “extreme weather events” in the past 20 years, the report found.
“Losses and damages from extreme weather events are the reality today, in particular in developing countries. Recent scientific results also tell us that climate change is an increasing factor in the occurrence of very heavy events,” said Germanwatch’s Seven Harmeling.
The results of the study should be viewed as an urgent call for change, Harmeling said.
“In Doha, we need serious progress in the negotiations on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, on increasing support for adaptation, and the kick-off for the development of an international mechanism to address loss and damage,” Harmeling said in a press release.
In total, eight of top 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events from 1992-2011 were developing countries in the low-income or lower-middle income country groups, and only two were in the upper-middle income category, according to Germanwatch.
Though neither Nicaragua nor Honduras made the annual top 10 list of most-affected countries in 2011, both Guatemala and El Salvador did.
Mónica López Baltodano, a civil society delegate representing Nicaragua’s Humboldt Center at the climate talks in Doha, said the Germanwatch index is compelling proof that “Central America should be officially recognized at the UN Convention on Climate Change as a region highly vulnerable to climate change.”
“We are demanding the industrialized countries—or so-called developed countries—comply with their global responsibilities by guaranteeing the corresponding transfer of technology, financing for sustainable climate mitigation, and compensation for damage suffered in our countries due to their excessive emissions of greenhouse gases, which are causing disasters and catastrophes in the poorest countries,” López Baltodano said.
Nicaragua’s worst storms in the past 20 years were Hurricane Mitch (1998) and Hurricane Felix (2007), both category-five storms.
Hurricane Mitch caused at least 3,800 deaths in Nicaragua. Most were buried in mudslides on the side of Casita Volcano. The storm caused more than $1 billion in damages to the country.
Hurricane Felix destroyed thousands of homes in northeastern Nicaraguan, claimed 130 lives and caused nearly $1 billion in damage.
Globally, more than 530,000 people have died as a direct consequence from almost 15,000 extreme weather events over the past 20 years, Germanwatch found. Losses total more than $ 2.5 trillion worldwide.
In addition to the large-scale disasters caused by mega storms, climate change is also causing a less dramatic but worsening effect on Nicaragua’s agricultural-based economy, according to Paul Oquist, President Daniel Ortega’s advisor for national development policies and the Sandinista government’s representative to world climate change forums.
“Since 2006, we are losing $200 million a year in lost agro-production due to climate change,” Oquist told The Nicaragua Dispatch in an interview last February. “That’s 9% of what’s been planted each year. So our development in Nicaragua is already being affected by climate change.”
Oquist said that Nicaragua and other small countries have lost faith that the developed world will take the lead on mitigating climate change. “We don’t see action from the developed countries in terms of curbing greenhouse emissions to put the brakes on this, nor do we see or feel the new additional and sufficient financing that was promised,” Oquist says.
If coordinated action among developed countries is not taken soon, the situation could get much worse, according to Germanwatch.
“If mitigation action is not stepped up drastically, the world is on the path to dangerous climate change,” the Germanwatch report says.