Chad, Bangladesh, Niger, Haiti and Central African Republic (CAR) have emerged as the top five countries most at risk from climate change.
The Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2016, which evaluates the vulnerability of human populations in 186 countries to extreme climate related events over the next 30 years, revealed that shifting climate patterns in Western Africa are already posing water and food security challenges in the region.
Chad topped the list of most vulnerable countries, with Niger ranking third.
According to Verisk Maplecroft, which compiled the index, climate change has contributed to roughly half of the 90 per cent reduction in the size of Lake Chad since the 1960s, and the reduced availability of freshwater has contributed to water and food insecurity, migration and conflict in Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, all of which border the lake.
The risk management consultancy also warned that climate change is expected to create a more variable West African monsoon system in the future, which could result in prolonged drought conditions and a decrease in crop yields.
Bangladesh ranked as the second most vulnerable country – a rise in sea level was cited as a particular concern given that approximately 10 per cent of the country is less than one metre above sea level.
Haiti was named the country at fourth greatest risk with “economic, political and social challenges” presenting significant hurdles to the way it adapts to climate change.
Although slightly less exposed to major climate shifts, CAR occupied the fifth spot. “As one of the poorest countries in the world, CAR’s population is heavily reliant on agriculture and is served by inadequate education and healthcare systems. The country also suffers from poor adaptive capacity, due to poor infrastructure, ineffective governance and high levels of corruption,” Verisk Maplecroft said.
Norway, Ireland, Iceland, Sweden and Finland were named as the countries least at risk from climate change.
The index combines risk of exposure to climate change and extreme events with current human sensitivity to that exposure and that country’s capacity to adapt to, or take advantage of, the potential impacts of climate change.