Cambodia 2nd Most Affected Country by Climate Change in 2011

Cambodia was the second most affected country in the world by climate change in 2011, the highest it has ever ranked due to last year’s heavy floods, according to a new report by Germanwatch, a Bonn-based environmental think tank.

The report, entitled Global Climate Risk Index 2013, which was released yesterday during the U.N.’s annual climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, ranked Cambodia second only to Thailand—which was also inundated by flooding in 2011.

While Cambodia ranked among the top worst-affected countries for the first time ever last year, it places 28th overall for the time period, from 1992 to 2012 covered by the report.

“Cambodia is a country where climate change is a continuing problem, although the effects were never as bad as in 2011, and this problem is reflected by other countries in the region as well, such as Vietnam and Thailand,” which rank 6th and 9th respectively, Sven Harmeling, a Germanwatch expert on international climate policy, said by telephone from Doha yesterday.

The ranking is based on four indicators: the number of deaths per year caused by weather-related events and the number of deaths in relation to the total population, as well as the loss of spending parity and gross domestic product (GDP).

As the sea level rises and the number of floods increase, typhoons and heavy rainfall will occur more frequently in the future, Mr. Harmeling warned.

“Rank 28 should be seen as a warning signal for Cambodia, but I see the dangers of Cambodia getting hit [by weather-related catastrophes] more often in the future,” he said, adding that generally, while industrialized countries cause climate change, it is developing nations that suffer the consequences.

Last year, flooding in Cambodia killed 250 people, displaced thousands, destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of rice paddy, and caused the government to lower the projection of 7 percent GDP growth to 6 percent.

Despite the 2011 floods, Keo Vy, Cabinet chief at the National Committee for Disaster Management, rejected Cambodia’s high ranking in the report. “We reject this classification…and I don’t know how [Germanwatch] evaluated this,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Vy said, the effects of climate change could not be denied in Cambodia.

“Cambodia is a poor country and it is difficult for us to adapt to the changed climate, but compared to other countries in the region, we are only a little bit affected,” Mr. Vy said.

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