Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP peopleandplanet.net
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Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP
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climate change > factfile > poor nations feel the heat

Poor nations feel the heat

Posted: 31 Mar 2006

The year 2005 was the hottest on record. The average global surface temperature of 14.77� Celsius (58.6� F) was the highest since recordkeeping began in 1880. The number of weather-related natural disasters has risen dramatically over the last 50 years.

Time trend of natural disasters
Time trend of natural disasters. Source: CRED

  • Worldwide, the number of big weather catastrophes has more than quadrupled since the 1960s. The graph above shows the trend of all natural disasters. For a dramatic graphic showing the increase in weather-related natural disasters by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), click here.

  • Poor nations are the most vulnerable to climate change. The average number of people affected by weather-related disasters per million inhabitants between 1994 and 2003 was nearly 60,000 in the developing countries as against only 2,600 in the industrialized countries.Flood victim, Bangladesh

    Flood victim, Ganges delta, Bangladesh
    © Trygve Bolstad/Panos Pictures

    Over the past two decades, floods and other weather-related disasters were among factors prompting some 10 million people to migrate from Bangladesh to India. In 2002, rains in Kenya displaced more than 150,000, while more than 800,000 Chinese were affected by the most severe drought in over a century.

  • According to the Red Cross, the number of people in the Oceania region affected by weather-related disasters has soared by 65 times during the past 30 years. Increased numbers of cyclones, droughts and floods, all predicted by climate change scientists, are said to be making life unviable on many islands.

  • In late 2005, the 980 people on the tiny Carteret atolls in the Pacific started to be evacuated because of sea rise. Ten families at a time will be moved by the Papua New Guinea authorities to Bougainville, a larger island 62 miles away. Within two years the six Carterets, roughly the size of 80 football pitches and just 1.5 metres high, will be uninhabited and undefended. By 2015 they are likely to be completely submerged.

  • The world's richest countries are failing to curb the pollution that's causing global climate change, according to a UN report Feeling the Heat. Between 1990 and 2000, the total greenhouse-gas emissions of industrialized countries actually declined slightly (by 5.6 per cent) - but that reflected unusual circumstances. Because of the steep and painful drop in economic output of the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, which were shifting from centrally planned to market economies, emissions in those nations fell by 37 per cent. That more than compensated for an 8.2 per cent increase in emissions among developed countries elsewhere. "The real work, what is really needed - worldwide economic progress combined with reduced emissions - has yet to be accomplished. It will not be easy," concludes the report.

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