Extreme weather could derail developing country growth: report

Risk analysts say growing prosperity in developing world at risk without greater resilience to climate change

Source: Pio Arce/Genesis Photos - World Vision

Source: Pio Arce/Genesis Photos – World Vision

By John McGarrity

The world’s fastest growing countries could be set back by extreme weather events and climate change unless they spend greater amounts of money on flood defences and stronger buildings, a new report said today.

Companies that are reaping the profits of growth in developing countries will need  to invest more to protect against typhoons, floods and landslides, a move that could help bolster investor confidence in nations that have brittle resilience to extreme weather events, risk analysts Maplecroft said.

“While significant investment opportunities lie in the growth economies, they are exposed to significant natural hazard risks and have a constricted capacity to bounce back when disaster strikes,” said Alyson Warhurst, chief executive of Maplecroft.

Maplecroft identified India and Bangladesh as the large countries that find it particularly difficult to recover from repeated floods and storms.

Meanwhile the 6,000 lives lost and estimated $1 billion cost from Supertyphoon Haiyan’s destruction of the Philippines last year underlined the need for better resilience in fast-growing economies, the report said.

It added that within a decade, half of the world’s economic output will be at “extreme risk” from natural disasters include earthquakes and tsunamis, but also events expected to become more common because of climate change, such as cyclones, floods and landslides.

UK resilience

In absolute terms countries such as the US and the UK were most at risk from extreme weather such as major floods and powerful storms, but were far better placed to bounce back from disasters than developing countries.

The report cited China as example of a country that is particularly vulnerable to a range of natural disasters, and where poor preparations would mean large losses of life and greater economic damage as the country grows richer.

“Climate change will exacerbate natural hazard risks in many regions, and in particular in many growth markets, augmenting the necessity for resilience building,” the report said.

The consultancy said the pace of global urbanisation means those exposed to cyclones and earthquakes is expected to more than double from 680 million in 2000 to 1.5 billion people in 2050.

“Existing infrastructure in many cities undergoing explosive population growth is insufficient to serve the current population,” the report added.

However some observers fear that in some developing countries, the private sector will only protect the rich against climate change and leave the poor to fend for themselves, citing the example of new urban development in Nigeria’s largest city Lagos.

There, a new district being built on reclaimed land will protect the urban elite from rising sea levels with strong flood defences, while neighbouring slums built on stilts over an exposed lagoon are likely to become even more vulnerable.


How to pay for the increased costs of extreme weather events and rising sea levels has long been a thorny issue at UN climate talks aimed at agreeing a new pact that would limit growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Developing countries want rich nations to pay them hundreds of billions a year in future decades to help them prepare for rising sea levels, droughts and storms that most scientists say will become more commonplace as the world warms.

The Green Climate Fund set up at climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 is meeting this week to try and make progress in attracting the $20 billion of finance promised by developed countries in 2020.

But countries most at risk of climate change say this sum is far below what is needed and want governments to contribute much more, an issue that has the potential to block progress at UN climate talks aimed at agreeing a global deal by the end of next year.

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