Climate Change Vulnerability: Country Rankings

Oct 24th, 2010 | By | Category: Climate Change

A new Climate Change Vulnerability Index has been released by the risk analysis firm Maplecroft. The index uses 42 separate social, economic, and environmental indicators to calculate the vulnerability of 170 countries to the impacts of climate change over the next 30 years. Sixteen countries, including some of the fast-growing economies in Asia, were identified as extreme risk.

According to Maplecroft, the countries with the most risk are characterized by high levels of poverty, dense populations, exposure to climate-related events, and reliance on flood- and drought-prone agricultural land. Africa features strongly in this group—this continent is home to 12 of the 25 countries most at risk.

Extreme Risk Countries 

Climate change vulnerability is rated as an extreme risk in the following sixteen countries.

  1. Bangladesh
  2. India
  3. Madagascar
  4. Nepal
  5. Mozambique
  6. Philippines
  7. Haiti
  8. Afghanistan
  9. Zimbabwe
  10. Myanmar
  11. Ethiopia
  12. Cambodia
  13. Vietnam
  14. Thailand
  15. Malawi
  16. Pakistan


Maplecroft rates Bangladesh as the country most at risk because of extreme levels of poverty, a high dependency on agriculture, and a government that has the lowest capacity of all countries to adapt to predicted changes in the climate. In addition, Bangladesh has a high risk of drought and the highest risk of flooding. This was illustrated during October 2010, when 500,000 people were driven from their homes by flood waters created by storms. However, despite the country’s problems, the Bangladesh economy grew 88% between 2000 and 2008 and is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to grow 5.4% over 2010 and up to 6.2% over the next five years.


India, ranked second, is already one of the world’s power brokers, but climate vulnerability could still adversely affect the country’s appeal as a destination for foreign investment in coming decades. Vulnerability to climate-related events was seen in the buildup to the Commonwealth Games, where heavy rains affected the progress of construction of the stadium and athletes’ village. Almost the whole of India has a high or extreme degree of sensitivity to climate change because of acute population pressure and a consequential strain on natural resources. This is compounded by a high degree of poverty, poor general health, and the agricultural dependency of much of the population. 

High Risk Countries

China (49), Brazil (81), and Japan (86) are in the high risk category. 

Medium Risk Countries

Russia (117), the USA (129), Germany (131), France (133), and the UK (138) are all rated as medium risk countries.

Low Risk Countries

Eleven countries are considered low risk in the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, with Norway (170), Finland (169), Iceland (168), Ireland (167), Sweden (166), and Denmark (165) performing the best.

Effects of Climate Change on the Global Economy

The Maplecroft Climate Change Vulnerability Index enables organizations to identify areas of risk within their operations, supply chains, and investments. Among the countries rated as having extreme climate change risk were nations that represent new Asian economic power and possess significant forecasted growth. Bangladesh (1), India (2), the Philippines (6), Vietnam (13), and Pakistan (16) are of particular importance as they are major contributors to the ongoing global economic recovery and are vital to the future expansion of Western businesses. The Philippines was noted to have special concern because it is projected to lie in the path of a potential “super-typhoon.”

According to Maplecroft Principal Analyst Dr. Matthew Bunce, “These countries are attracting high levels of foreign investment from many multinational organizations. However, over the next 30 years their vulnerability to climate change will rise due to increases in air temperature, precipitation and humidity. This means organizations with operations or assets in these countries will become more exposed to associated risks, such as climate-related natural disasters, resource security and conflict. Understanding climate vulnerability will help companies make their investments more resilient to unexpected change.”

Throughout 2010, changes in weather patterns have resulted in a series of devastating natural disasters, especially in South Asia, where heavy floods in Pakistan affected more than 20 million people (over 10% of the total population) and killed more than 1,700 people. “There is growing evidence climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of climatic events,” said Dr. Anna Moss, Environmental Analyst at Maplecroft. Very minor changes to temperature can have major impacts on the human environment, including changes to water availability and crop productivity, the loss of land due to sea level rise and the spread of disease.”

About the Author

Michael Bittner, CPEA, is an associate partner in the Boston, U.S.A. office of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and editor of the EHS Journal. He has more than 20 years of experience in the EHS field, including 17 years of EHS consulting experience and four years as the corporate environmental manager for a U.S. Department of Defense contractor. Mr. Bittner specializes in global EHS solutions including

  • Compliance and management systems auditing.
  • EHS management systems implementation and design.
  • Sustainability solutions.
  • Mergers and acquisitions support.

He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Auditing Roundtable.

Photograph: Lightning Glow by Billy Alexander, Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A.

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