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Wide fault lines within the Global Climate Risk Index


The address by Barbados Prime Minister at the 26th United Nations Conference of Parties, or COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, attracted global attention with her remark that failure to provide critical adaptation finance as well as measuring the extent of loss caused by climate change with respect to “lives and livelihoods” was immoral.

Recent discussions around climate risk assessment and management have been based on the “Global Climate Risk Index” (GCRI), published annually by GermanWatch, a non-profit organisation.


GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Climate Change and its impact, Economics behind climate change vulnerability)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Global Climate Risk Index (GCRI)
  2. Highlights of the 2020 year
  3. Issue Areas
  4. Way forward

About Global Climate Risk Index (GCRI)

  • The Global Climate Risk Index (GCRI) is released annually by the environmental think tank and sustainable development lobbyist Germanwatch.
  • It analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.).
  • It pushes for the need to support developing countries in coping with the effects of climate change.
  • The GCRI ranks countries based on four key indicators:
    1. Number of deaths;
    2. Number of deaths per 1,00,000 inhabitants;
    3. Sum of losses in Purchasing Power Parity (in U.S. dollars); and
    4. Losses per unit of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Of these indicators, two are absolute while the other two are relative.

Highlights of the 2020 year

Global prospects

  • Mozambique, Zimbabwe and The Bahamas were the worst-affected countries in 2019.
  • While hurricane Dorian ravaged The Bahamas; Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi were affected by the single extreme weather event of cyclone Idai.
  • Japan and Afghanistan were the other countries that fared worse than India on the Index, while South Sudan, Niger and Bolivia fared better in comparison but still made it to the top 10 worst-affected countries.

The burden of development

  • Eight of the 10 countries most affected between 2000 and 2019 were developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita.
  • Vulnerable people in developing countries suffered most from extreme weather events like storms, floods and heatwaves, whereas the impact of climate change was visible around the globe.
  • Poorer countries are hit hardest because they are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard and have the lower coping capacity.

Data about India

  • According to the Index floods caused by heavy rain in 2019 took 1,800 lives across 14 states in India and displaced 1.8 million people.
  • Overall, the intense monsoon season affected 11.8 million people, with the economic damage estimated to be $10 billion (Rs.72,900 crore at $1=INR 72.9).
  • A total of eight tropical cyclones meant that 2019 was one of the most active Northern Indian Ocean cyclone seasons on record. Six of them intensified to become “very severe”.
  • The worst was Cyclone Fani in May 2019 which affected a total of 28 million people, killing nearly 90 people in India and Bangladesh, and causing economic losses of $8.1 billion (Rs.59,066 crore).

Issue Areas

The 2021 version ranked 180 countries based on the impact of extreme weather events and associated socio-economic data from 2000-2019. There are deep fault lines in the methodology and interpretation of the country rankings.

  1. The GCRI report does not provide a rationale for the selection of these macro indicators.
  2. Second, the index suffers from exclusion errors and selection bias. Composite indicators are better constructed using micro indicators instead of macro indicators, which measure loss because isolating the effect of the loss of elements on GDP is fraught with errors. Instead, a number of key micro indicators such as the total number of people injured, loss of livestock, loss of public and private infrastructure, crop loss and others are better candidates for assessing the composite loss resulting from climate change events.
  3. Third, the index provides us with information on weather-related events like storms, floods, temperature extremes and mass movements. However, it omits geological incidents like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis, which may be potentially triggered by climate change and can have economic and humanitarian impacts.
  4. Fourth, the ranking under the GCRI is done based on data collected by Munich Re’s NatCatService, which is not authenticated at the ground level.

Way forward

Deploying effective approaches and standards to cultivate collaboration among climate risk information users and providers along with the execution of effective action plans, will allow India to meet the targets envisaged in the Sendai Framework.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023