Worsening heatwaves are taking a heavier toll on rich as well as poor countries, according to an annual ranking that measures the damage done by extreme weather to human life and economies.
The Global Climate Risk Index, published on Wednesday by environmental think-tank Germanwatch, rated Japan as the most weather-affected country in 2018, hit by a triple whammy of extreme summer heat, torrential rainfall and the most powerful typhoon in a quarter-century.
Germany, another industrialised country, was in third position as its hottest-ever April-July period led to the deaths of more than 1,200 people and widespread drought in 2018.
India - in fifth position - suffered one of its longest-ever heatwaves that year, bringing water shortages, crop failures and riots, on top of monsoon floods and two strong cyclones, Germanwatch said in a report.
“Recent science has confirmed the long-established link between climate change and the frequency and severity of extreme heat,” it added in a statement.
In 2018, the severe summer heatwave in Japan killed 138 people and caused more than 70,000 people to be hospitalised with heat stroke and exhaustion, the report said.
Across Europe, scientists calculate extreme heat spells are now up to 100 times more likely than a century ago, it added.
The report noted that the impact of heatwaves on African nations may be under-represented due to a lack of data.
Powerful storms, meanwhile, left a trail of destruction in 2018, with the Philippines second in the climate risk index due to large losses inflicted by top-strength Typhoon Mangkhut. Madagascar was the fourth most weather-hit country as two cyclones killed about 70 people and forced 70,000 to seek refuge.
In Kenya and Rwanda - seventh and eighth in the index - seasonal rains were much heavier than normal, causing floods that destroyed homes and livestock and fuelled diseases.
Laura Schaefer, a policy advisor with Germanwatch, told journalists at the UN climate talks in Madrid that the index results showed that the “signs of climate crisis”, on all continents, could no longer be ignored.
In the past 20 years, nearly half a million deaths were directly linked to more than 12,000 extreme weather events worldwide, while economic damages exceeded $3.5 trillion, the report said.