A new report by a global think tank has found that nearly a billion people around the world are facing climate change related environmental hazards—and the majority of them are in Asia.
The Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP) annual Global Peace Index revealed on Wednesday that an estimated 971 million people globally live in areas with high or very high exposure to hazards such as cyclones, floods, bushfires, and rising sea levels. The proportion of those at-risk individuals who live in the Asia-Pacific region is twice as many as those in all other regions combined—and the top nine countries facing the highest risk of climate hazards were all Asian nations.
The Philippines was ranked the country with the highest risk of experiencing multiple climate hazards out of anywhere in the world, followed by Japan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China,
Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan. Tenth place was a five-way tie between Iran, Somalia, Peru, Mexico, and the United States of America. Japan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and China also ranked within the ten countries most at risk of experiencing a single climate hazard.
The seriousness of these hazards becomes amplified in countries with weaker coping capacities for natural disasters. IEP founder and executive chairman Steve Killelea told the ABC that the Pacific Islands, for example, “are going to be massively impacted by rising sea levels." The South Asia region overall ranked highest in the world for average natural risk and single hazard, and second lowest in the world for coping capacity.
Things further escalate when one takes into account the potential impacts that climate hazards can have on a country’s level of peacefulness. The danger here is twofold: not only are conflict-prone countries more vulnerable to natural disasters—since they lack the coping mechanisms to deal with them—but those disasters themselves can also trigger further internal unrest in a myriad of ways.
“The effects of climate change pose a major challenge to peacefulness in the coming decade,” the report’s authors state. “The effects of climate shocks on factors such as resource scarcity, livelihood security, and displacement can greatly increase the risk of future violent conflict.”
Just last year there were 17.2 million new displacements associated with disasters, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The Asia-Pacific region was the most heavily affected, making up for 9.3 million of those who were displaced, while the Philippines, China, and India ranked as the three countries that were hit hardest.
“The impacts varied significantly across the vast region,” the author’s of the IDMC report stated. “From highly exposed countries such as the Philippines, China, Indonesia, and Japan, to small island states and territories such as Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Vanuatu.”
Of the 971 million people facing climate hazards around the world, 2.4 million were in Australia. The main risks there come from hurricanes and cyclones in the north, rising sea levels in the south and east, and drought and desertification throughout.
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