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An edifying conversation with Tom Herbstein, programme manager for the ClimateWise[1] initiative of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, led me to peruse a ClimateWise case study I had skimmed when published in 2010. It is Adapting to the extreme weather impacts of climate change – how can the insurance industry help? And I was delighted to grasp so much from a resource whose lessons remain very relevant today. Here are my takeaways.

By Jacob Miller, Summer 2015 ND-GAIN Intern
 
With tools like the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index these kinds of questions can be answered. In attempting to answer this question wealth is measured in GDP per capita, overall GDP, and economic freedom. This yields three very interesting results: Firstly, the wealth of a country can have different preparedness results from rich to poor countries. Secondly, the readiness of a country is more correlated with the wealth than the vulnerability. Thirdly, the economic freedom of a country related to climate change preparedness in vastly different ways depending on level of freedom.
 
1. The first of these conclusions is that wealth will have different results when it comes to climate change preparedness in wealthier countries as compared to poorer countries. This result is apparent in both the measure of GDP and GDP per capita. When the GDP and GDP per capita of the 10 poorest countries was plotted against the ND-GAIN score those countries received, there was a slightly negative correlation, meaning as the wealth of these poorer countries grew their overall rank improved. These graphs can be seen below. 
 

The Papal Encyclical released today focuses on the moral obligation to safeguard the earth and mankind’s common good. In it, Pope Francis defines "the urgent challenge to protect our common home" and reminds us of our shared humanity, our shared risk, and our shared responsibility to save lives and improve livelihoods in the face of climate change.

Prolonged drought, excessive heat, extreme weather… these are just a few of the hazards facing the global community in response to climate change. The ND-GAIN Country Indexprovides a means to view a country's vulnerability and their readiness to successfully implement adaptation solutions. However, climate change is and will continue to also be felt on the local level, necessitating granular, context-specific assessments in order to direct adaptation investments and actions.  

Responding to this need, the Urban Adaptation Assessment project, funded by the Kresge Foundation and lead by ND-GAIN, began in early 2015 to produce an urban adaptation measurement solution and pilot it in five U.S. urban areas. These local-scale assessments will be used by government, non-profit and business leaders, who can apply them to inform market and policy positions that improve livelihoods and save lives.

At the World Bank’s recent Financing Urban Resilience Workshop, I grasped three clear trends – indeed, shifts – occurring that are changing how adaptation leaders and others are managing an unbalanced world.

 

(The workshop was led by Stephen Hammer, Lead Specialist, Cities and Climate Change, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice World Bank and attended by the Rockefeller Foundation, IFC, IDB, Munich Re, cities such as New Orleans, Mexico City, Acclimitise, Arup, AECOM etc.)

 

The detected changes:

  1. A shift within the traditional sustainability community from natural hazards to other types of shocks such as economic crises, health epidemics, etc. This reflects an overall shift to a more multidisciplinary approach, and it includes a switch from managing risks from specific disaster hazards to handling climate adaptation, which acknowledges the challenge of multiple hazards.

 

  1. A change from striving to put the world into balance (the aim of much sustainability work) to seeking to manage in an unbalanced world. Among other things, this allows for “safe failures” for affected systems while, at the same time, requiring redundancy, robustness and diversity may differ from what previously was believed to be needed.

 

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