New research ranks the nations most likely to adapt to a warmer, more volatile world—and those most likely to be be destroyed by it.
Image: Vincent Van Zeijst / Wikimedia
Every year, the University of Notre Dame's Global Adaptation Index issues a listing of which nations are best prepared to combat climate change—and which are most primed to suffer under the swelter.
ND-GAIN examines national resilience, essentially, to employ the buzz word of the day. It "ranks more than 175 countries based on their vulnerability to climate change and their readiness to adapt to the droughts, superstorms and natural disasters that climate change can cause."
The results come with few surprises. Those nations best equipped to adapt to a hotter, stormier, and more parched world tend to be rich, technologically advanced, more equal, or simply loaded with resources. Socialist, oil-rich Norway, for instance, takes the top spot, despite having miles and miles of vulnerable coastline.
All of Scandinavia, for instance, despite boasting vulnerable coastline, is primed to adapt to a warmer world.
The US, Canada, and Australia are big and resource rich—and, importantly, have enough fertile cropland in northern regions to adapt to rising temperatures. For a time, anyway.
The worst off are, as usual, the poor countries whose crop yields will fall, water access will decline, and who lack the technology, political economy, and resources to buffer the incoming bouts of extreme weather-filled years.
Chad is currently projected to fare the worst, as drought and heat sap its land-locked breadbaskets.
Note that the researchers don't consider tiny island nations that are most likely to be literally wiped off the map by global warming—countries like Maldives and Kiribati clearly face the greatest existential climate threat.
But each of the nations analyzed have a number of common traits—they're poor, highly dependent on fickle ecosystem services for food and industry, and suffer from political instability. There's a reason that the nations currently suffering the worst impacts of Ebola—Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea—are all primed to suffer the worst of global warming, too.
It's the great cruel truth of climate change that while it's caused primarily by rich, industrial nations, it's going to hit the poorest nations hardest. Looking over this list reaffirms the moral imperative that wealthy, polluting countries should have towards ameliorating the damage in the countries that are slated to suffer the brunt of the damage from the mess they've made.