According to the recent Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI), a survey of 170 countries produced by the global risks advisory firm Maplecroft, South Asia and Africa are the ‘most climate-vulnerable’ areas of the globe. Many of the countries therein are designated by the index as being at ‘extreme’ risk over the next 30 years due to sea-level rise, burgeoning populations, and the increasing frequency and intensity of climatic events such as droughts, storms, and floods.
The index integrates 42 economic, social, and environmental factors, emphasizing more than previous iterations the ability of countries to respond effectively to the stresses and contingencies attending global climate change. Maplecroft’s Fiona Place thus notes that “[t]he most serious vulnerabilities to climate change are found in a group of developing countries with socio-economic systems ill-equipped to address development challenges such as food and water security, in addition to being burdened by unstable economies and weak institutions.” Anna Moss, Maplecroft’s environmental analyst, furthermore observes that there is “growing evidence [that] climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of climatic events,” and that “”[v]ery 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.”
Whether considered via national, global, or human security perspectives (which perhaps need not be exclusive categories), the CCVI provides serious food for thought. With India ranked second and Pakistan ranked sixteenth—both dangerously high—we can, without drawing out in detail potentially frightening scenarios, begin to see how South Asian regional stability could be negatively impacted by global climate change—with potential repercussions for the stability of the global system and the safety of American citizens. And, complementing our more inductive and deductive analytical abilities, our capacity for empathy (engendered perhaps by abductive reasoning) informs us of the exacerbated suffering predicted as the livelihoods of already vulnerable individuals and communities are increasingly made more precarious and desperate.
The index therefore provides a window on the possible strategic implications of global climate change, while illustrating a more general, cruel irony of this essentially anthropogenic phenomenon: already vulnerable populations are expected to bear the brunt of its adverse affects—even when they, often due to a relative lack of or late industrialization, have contributed little or any to our atmosphere’s increased levels of greenhouse gasses.