India loses more people to climate change than any other country

December 5th, 2008 - 12:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Poznan (Poland), Dec 5 (IANS) Between 1998 and 2007, India has lost more people due to extreme weather events caused by climate change than any other country, with an average of 4,532 people killed every year, a well-known German NGO has calculated.The monetary losses were an average of $12 billion a year in terms of purchasing power parity, representing 0.62 percent of India’s GDP, added Sven Harmeling of Germanwatch here Thursday.

Releasing his findings on the sidelines of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in this western Poland town, Harmeling said if one took into account average death, deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, average total losses and average losses as percentage of GDP, India would rank seventh among countries most affected by extreme weather events in the last decade.

Germanwatch had created an index with these four factors, by which Honduras was the country worst affected in the last decade, followed by Bangladesh.

The benchmark Fourth Assessment Report brought out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 had said extreme weather events such as more frequent and more severe droughts, floods and storms were strongly correlated to climate change caused by global warming.

Harmeling said 2,502 Indians had been killed by extreme weather events in 2007 alone. But other countries had suffered worse, which placed India 19th among the list of countries affected last year.

Around 9,000 delegates from 186 countries and over 400 NGOs are attending the UNFCCC summit. Harmeling said that since climate change was now an ongoing reality, countries had to step up their risk management systems in every way.

Harjeet Singh, policy analyst at the Chennai office of the international NGO ActionAid, said government representatives at the summit were discussing risk management, “but insurance and derivatives are overwhelming other strategies”.

Harjeet Singh wanted to have “people at the centre of the risk assessment framework, especially the small farmers who are the worst sufferers of climate change”.

“These are the people who are being forced to commit suicide as their crops fail due to climate change,” he told IANS. “We have to find ways to help them by expanding public expenditure, while using the farmers’ owns traditional knowledge to cope with the changing climate.”

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at joydeep.g@ians.in)

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