Why Germany is ‘among top three’ countries affected by climate change

Summers of heat and drought have brought climate change to the top of Germany's agenda. Now an international report shows how the damage compares to other countries.

Why Germany is 'among top three' countries affected by climate change

According to a new report by the development organization Germanwatch, the Bundesrepublik was last year one of the top three countries most severely affected by extreme weather. 

Due to the heat waves, storms and droughts of 2018, Germany was ranked third behind Japan and the Philippines in the Global Climate Risk Index 2020. Germanwatch presented their findings on Wednesday at the World Climate Conference in Madrid. 

It’s the first time Germany has climbed to such a high position in the ranking. In the long-term index, which evaluates the years 1999 to 2018, Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti were the countries worst affected by storms, floods and droughts.

READ ALSO: 'The future is already here': How climate change is affecting Germany

Heatwaves were one major cause of damage in 2018. Of the 10 most affected countries in 2018, Germany, Japan and India suffered from extended periods of heat.

“The Climate Risk Index shows that climate change has disastrous impacts especially for poor countries, but also causes increasingly severe damage in industrialized countries like Japan or Germany,” said David Eckstein of Germanwatch.

“Countries like Haiti, Philippines and Pakistan are repeatedly hit by extreme weather events and have no time to fully recover. That underlines the importance of reliable financial support mechanisms for poor countries like these not only in climate change adaptation, but also for dealing with climate-induced loss and damage.”

As The Local has reported, the effects of global warming are becoming increasingly noticeable in Germany. The average air temperature in Germany increased by 1.5C between 1881 and 2018, according to the government's Climate Monitoring Report, published recently. In the past five years alone, the temperature has gone up by 0.3C.

Source: Germanwatch

The annually published Climate Risk Index is based on data from insurer Munich Re and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It analyzes to what extent countries and regions have been affected by impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.). The most recent data available – for 2018, and from 1999 to 2018 – were taken into account.

How can the world deal with cost of climate change?

Global warming makes extreme weather events such as droughts and storms more frequent and stronger, the study says. In the past 20 years, altogether, about 495 000 people died as a direct result of more than 12,000 extreme weather events globally and losses between 1999 and 2018 amounted to around $3.54 trillion (in purchasing power parities).

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: Berlin to be 'as hot as Australia' in 30 years

In the long-term index, seven of the 10 most severely affected countries are poorer countries. How the devastating damage in these countries can be managed financially is one of the topics at this year's UN Climate Conference in Madrid, which began on Monday and lasts two weeks.

The below map shows the countries most affected last year.

“In countries like Haiti, the Philippines and Pakistan, we see such recurrent extreme weather conditions at such short intervals that these countries have little opportunity to recover from weather disasters,” said Vera Künzel, one of the authors.

Poor countries need help not only to adapt to climate change, but also to deal with unavoidable damage and losses, Künzel added.

“The climate summit needs to address the so far lacking of additional climate finance to help poorest people and countries in dealing with losses and damages,” Laura Schäfer of Germanwatch added.

“They are hit hardest by climate change impacts because they lack the financial and technical capacity to deal with the losses and damages.

“The climate conference therefore needs to result in a decision to regularly determine the support needs of vulnerable countries for future damages.”

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What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

Parts of Germany will see another heatwave this week as temperatures soar.

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

The German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted that the mercury will climb in some regions of to around 34C this week. 

“After low pressure ‘Karin’ gave parts of Germany rain, sometimes in large quantities, high pressure ‘Piet’ is now back in pole position,” said meteorologist Lars Kirchhübel of the DWD.

This high pressure zone will dominate the weather in large parts of western and central Europe over the coming days, the weather expert said, adding that it will reach Germany too. 

On Monday temperatures remained fairly cool across the country after a weekend of showers, but they are set to climb over the course of the week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters predict it could reach 32C in Stuttgart and 33C in Cologne on Thursday. Locally, temperatures could reach 34C. 

However, from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Erzgebirge mountains and southeast Bavaria, denser clouds and some showers are to be expected. This is due to a high-level low pressure system over the Balkan region, according to forecasters. Short showers are also possible in the Black Forest.

“In most of the rest of the country, high ‘Piet’ will be able to hold its ground,” said Kirchhübel.

READ ALSO: Heavy rain in Bavaria swells rivers, but flooding avoided

At the end of the week, thunderstorms are forecast but temperatures are expected to remain high. 

August in Germany ‘too dry’

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, August as a whole – apart from a few areas in eastern Germany – will be too dry compared to the multi-year average.

The Black Forest, the High Rhine and the Allgäu to the Bavarian Forest, however, are not expected to have any major problems due to the high rainfall of the past few days.

“Looking at Rhineland-Palatinate, the southern half of Hesse, the western half of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Franconia shows a different picture,” said Kirchhübel. In the last 30 days, only about 10 percent of the usual level of precipitation fell in some places.

“At some stations, no precipitation at all has been measured in August,” added Kirchhübel, referencing Würzburg as an example.

Rainfall at the weekend caused the water in the Rhine river to rise slightly. In Emmerich, the water level reached a positive value again after the historic low of the past few days: in the morning, it showed three centimetres – an increase of six centimetres compared to the previous day.

The water level also rose by several centimetres at the other measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia: in Cologne, the level rose to 80cm and in Düsseldorf to 38cm.

READ ALSO: Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

Despite this encouraging trend, the Waterways and Shipping Authority said it did not expect a huge improvement in water levels in the foreseeable future due to more hot weather coming.