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In nations rich and poor, climate-related disasters on the uptick

  • Published at 09:43 pm December 4th, 2019
A fire truck is seen near a bushfire in Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour, Australia, November 12, 2019 AFP

A sustained heatwave in 2003 claimed 70,000 lives across western Europe, mostly in France

Japan, Philippines and Germany top a list of countries worst hit by climate-enhanced extreme weather last year, with Madagascar and India close behind, researchers said on Wednesday.

Flood-inducing rains, two deadly heatwaves, and the worst typhoon to hit Japan in a quarter century - all in 2018 - left hundreds dead, thousands homeless and more than $35 billion in damage nationwide, according to a report from environmental thinktank Germanwatch.

Category 5 Typhoon Manghut - the most powerful tropical storm of the year - ripped through northern Philippines in September, displacing a quarter of a million people and unleashing lethal landslides, according to the group's updated Global Climate Risk Index.

In Germany, meanwhile, a sustained summer heatwave and drought along with average temperatures nearly 3°C above normal over a four-month stretch resulted in 1,250 premature deaths and losses of $5 billion, mostly in agriculture.

2018's top weather disasters showed that even the world's most advanced and resilient economies can find themselves at the mercy of meteorological events amplified by global warming.

"Recent science has confirmed the long established link between climate change, on one side, and the frequency and severity of extreme heat, on the other," said Germanwatch researcher Laura Schafer.

"In Europe, for example, extreme heat spells are now 100 times more likely than a century ago."

A sustained heatwave in 2003 claimed 70,000 lives across western Europe, mostly in France.

India was also ravaged by crippling heat in 2018, along with the worst flooding in over 100 years and a pair of cyclones. Total damages: nearly $38 billion.  

Across the last 20 years, it is still the poorest regions that have suffered the most, the report found.

Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti were hit hardest, mostly due to tropical storms that have grown more destructive due to sea-level rise.