According to British risk assessors Maplecroft, the U.S. and Japan have the highest economic exposure to natural disasters, while Asia's emerging countries– namely, China, India and Indonesia – pose the most risk to investors due to a lack of capacity to combat the impacts of a major disaster.

Maplecroft's survey, the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas 2011, ranked 196 countries according to their economic exposure to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, landslides, floods, storms and wildfires.  It determined that the U.S., followed by Japan, China and Taiwan, were at "extreme risk" in terms of overall dollar costs from a natural disaster.

However, the United States and Japan ranked far better in Maplecroft's assessment of countries' relative social and economic ability to cope with a disaster.  The high-risk countries in this category included China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, which -- according to Maplecroft -- lack the socio-economic resilience to withstand the impact of natural disasters.

The survey noted that "natural hazards have been more costly to the world economy [in 2011] so far than any other year on record," and that, due to the rising economic power of the major emerging economies of China, India, Philippines and Indonesia, the occurrence of a major natural disaster in these countries may also have global economic impacts and severely affect the supply chains of business.

The survey is based on data for 2005-2010 compiled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).