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Social Issues
New Report Says Many Of The World’s Natural Disasters In 2011 Were The Worst Ever; Is It Because Of
November 27, 2012
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After Hurricane Sandy, many people were asking the question: is climate change to blame for the storm?

The jury is still out. Many scientists aren't sure if the storm - which caused $50 billion in damage - was a result of, or made worse, by climate change.

You simply can't tell from a one-off event. You need to look at many weather events over a number of years, to see if there's a trend.

That said, there is troubling news today in a report from Germanwatch - a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Germany.

Each year, it releases a Global Climate Risk Index, which analyzes to what extent countries are affected by severe weather events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.).

In today's report, there is one striking piece of news.

In 2011, many of the worst natural disasters were also the most severe to ever hit the affected countries, especially in the developing world.

Brazil, El Salvador, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand are all listed in the index's 10 most-affected countries, and all recorded their worst natural disasters last year.

"We see that there are an increasing number of cases where science is saying, 'Oh these big events have likely not happened without climate change'. It is getting more visible in the disasters," said Sven Harmeling, who oversees climate change policy at Germanwatch.

"We must expect that this will become more so in the future, that countries will experience extreme events of a strength they have never seen before."

Thailand is listed as the country affected the most. It went through its worst flooding in 2011, after being hit by a tropical storm.


The flooding caused $43 billion in damage, making it one of the most costly natural disasters in the world.

In Brazil, floods and landslides killed more than 1,000 people and caused nearly $5 billion worth of damage. In El Salvador, floods and landslides caused damages of more than $1 billion.

In Cambodia, severe rain caused the worst flooding in decades, killing about 250 people and destroying houses and rice crops. Laos also experienced heavy flooding, with more than 300,000 people affected.

Also listed are the Philippines, Honduras, Nicaragua, Burma and Pakistan - which George visited in 2010 with the UN World Food Programme.

The Index also lists a number of record-breaking natural disasters that have happened over the past decade or so. They include...

The worst flooding in Pakistan's history in 2010.

The 2003 heatwave in Europe's - the hottest summer in 500 years.

The wettest autumn in England and Wales since 1766, recorded in 2000.

The summer of 2001 in Greece - the hottest since 1891.

The 2010 summer in western Russia - the hottest since 1500.

The report also makes the case that Hurricane Sandy might not be the biggest or most costly disaster in America this year.


It could actually be drought - the worst the United States has seen in nearly 60 years.

And with the U.S. dealing with severe drought, it could have a major impact on food prices and food security around the world.


All of this comes as the United Nations meets in Doha this week for another round of talks about how to deal with climate change.

As Sven Harmeling of Germanwatch put it "Doha is an important moment here to show the world that the most vulnerable are not left behind with the unavoidable consequences [of climate change]."

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