It’s one of the great perversities of climate change: that the countries that caused most damage are likely to see the least impact.
That truth is graphically displayed by a new analysis of climate change risk by Maplecroft, a U.K. consultancy. Haiti, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, and Madagascar are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, including droughts, floods, and storms.
And before you think that emerging economies are set to take up economic leadership, spare a thought for the Philippines (10th on the list), Vietnam (23rd), Indonesia (27th), and India (28th), or for fast-growing cities like Calcutta, Manila, Jakarta, Guangdong, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Karachi, and Lagos—all of which are seen as in danger.
"Cities such as Manila, Jakarta, and Calcutta are vital centers of economic growth in key emerging markets, but heat waves, flooding, water shortages, and increasingly severe and frequent storm events may well increase as climate changes takes hold," says Charlie Beldon, principal environmental analyst at Maplecroft.
The map is based on an analysis of exposure to climate events, together with countries’ population density, development, natural resources, agricultural dependency, and level of conflict.
By contrast, the developed world gets off lightly. A major industrialized nation doesn’t appear in the top 100, with Greece appearing at 103rd, then Italy (124th). Of 193 nations analyzed, Iceland is seen as the least susceptible. Maplecroft says the poor in fast-growing cities are particularly at risk because infrastructure often fails to keep with growth, forcing people to live on marginal land, such as unprotected flood plains.
"It is therefore the poorest citizens that will be most exposed to the effects of climate change, and the least able to cope with the effects," Beldon says.