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Climate Change Vulnerability

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Two weeks ago, Maplecroft published its sixth annual Climate Change Vulnerability Index. Maplecroft calls itself ‘the world’s leading global risk analytics, research and strategic forecasting company’; its ‘technological solutions identify emerging trends, business opportunities and risks to investments and supply chains worldwide’. The index didn’t get much media attention, though the Philippine Star reported that the Philippines ranks as the ninth most vulnerable country.

Maplecroft calculates the risk ‘by evaluating three factors’: ‘exposure to extreme climate-related events’, ‘the sensitivity of populations’ and countries’ ‘adaptive capacity’. There is a straightforward correlation between poverty and risk: richer countries are better prepared – they have more adaptive capacity and less sensitive populations. Supertyphoon Haiyan was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, but that isn’t the only reason it was so deadly; if it had made landfall somewhere wealthier than Leyte and Samar, it would probably have killed fewer than 10,000 people. (Hurricane Katrina was less powerful than Sandy, but killed more than six times as many people.)

At the opening of the UN climate talks in Warsaw today, Yeb Saño, the Philippines’ chief negotiator, said he would ‘voluntarily refrain from eating food’ during the talks ‘until a meaningful outcome is in sight’. He was given a standing ovation. Delegates had tears in their eyes. But a ‘meaningful outcome’ is something else. Last week the World Meteorological Organisation announced that the ‘atmospheric increase of CO2 from 2011 to 2012 was higher than its average growth rate over the past ten years.’

Tropical Depression Zoraida is tonight heading towards the Philippines, bringing winds of up to 60 kph and up to 15 mm of rain.

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