Caribe Fest Presents the Region’s Climate Vulnerability

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Journalist Omaya Sosa Pascual interviewed specialist David Eckstein, from Germanwatch.

Photo by Joan Camille Cruz | Centro de Periodismo Investigativo

During a video interview on the climate crisis, as part of the Caribe Fest held in Puerto Rico, climate finance policy adviser David Eckstein explained the vulnerability climate indicators that Caribbean countries such as Puerto Rico and Haiti have been known for from 2000 to 2019.

David Eckstein’s interview included a presentation of texts, maps, and data tables.

The co-author of the “Global Climate Risk Index 2021” recalled in an interview with the co-founder of the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish), Omaya Sosa Pascual, that Puerto Rico topped this list between 2000 and 2019 followed by Myanmar and Haiti.

These countries were hit by “exceptionally devastating events,” in this case hurricanes: Puerto Rico by María, in 2017; Haiti by Jeanne, in 2004, and Sandy, in 2012; and Myanmar by Nargis in 2008, the report says.

The study on countries at risk because of climate change is based on vulnerability indicators for “extreme weather events” or devastating ones with direct repercussions, such as hurricanes, that cause deaths due to floods or landslides. The data, therefore, helps estimate how “frequent and/or more severe” upcoming natural events may be, he added.

The four indicators that lead to these findings are the number of natural phenomena in that period, total deaths, and deaths per 100,000 people, and the losses in millions of dollars and in percentages, Eckstein explained.

“The level of exposure and vulnerability to extreme events should be understood as an alert signal. Developed countries must increase adaptation efforts as well as mitigation actions — developing countries suffer more,” he added.

Eight of the 10 countries most affected by “extreme weather” from 2000 to 2019, earn “low or lower middle income.” Likewise, half are among the least advanced, according to the study.

However, the data for those years, for the United States, is not available from 1999 to 2018, which positions the US  between numbers 21-50 in the ranking of victims, as the speaker projected on the screen during the videoconference.

From 2000 to 2019 there were globally 475,000 deaths as a “direct result” of more than 11,000 “extreme weather events,” as well as $2.56 trillion in losses (estimated in purchasing power parity, or PPP, a currency conversion to a standard), said the author.

When collecting information, the limitations that are faced are the lack of raw data (crude or unprocessed data) on direct and indirect impacts, the slow climate risks not covered, such as the rise of the sea level and the melting of glaciers, and the difficulty in linearly projecting future effects with past findings, he added.

The issue was investigated with the nonprofit organization Germanwatch, which aims to “improve transparency in international climate policy and allow comparison of climate protection efforts and progress made by individual countries,” according to its website.

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