ND-GAIN Updates Climate Adaptation Index: Good News for Myanmar, Bad News for Brazil

Originally published by Azua (Zizhan) Luo on NewSecurityBeat


As climate change leads to more weather variability and natural disasters, the need for adaptation is more urgent than ever. The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) aims to enhance understanding of adaptation and inform the public and private sectors on actions and investments.

The annual ND-GAIN Country Indexrecently updated with new data, ranks 181 countries on vulnerability and readiness to adapt to natural disasters and extreme weather events. The index allows decision-makers to target their assistance in order to help the communities most at risk.

The index breaks climate change vulnerability into subcategories of water, food, health, infrastructure, ecosystems, and human habitat, and looks at underlying factors like the economy, governance, and social structures. Researchers also measure common factors of successful adaptation to climate change, including changes to the economy, increased access to resources, agricultural capacity, and political stability.

There’s a large difference generally between developing and developed countries when it comes to adaptation. People living in least developed countries are 10 times more likely to be affected by a climate disaster than those living in wealthy countries, said Meghan Doherty, program director of ND-GAIN, in a webinar for the release of new data. It could take more than 100 years for those living in lower-income countries to reach the level of resilience of those in upper-level income countries.

This inequality “really highlight[s] the need for mitigation, as well as early and targeted investments in adaptation,” said Doherty.

Video: ND-GAIN Country Index Release - January 11, 2017

But it’s not all bad news. Myanmar experienced the most improvement as measured by the index over the last year. Political change, including constitutional reforms, new elections, and the lifting of some sanctions, have helped open the country up. Access to health services has improved too, according to the index. Others that have made marked recent gains are Ghana, the Solomon Islands, Cape Verde, and Sri Lanka. Considering the last five years of change, Russia, Uzbekistan, Iran, and Rwanda have made significant improvements.

“Avoid the preventable and manage the unavoidable”

Burundi experienced backsliding over the last year, thanks to political instability after a coup in 2015 and civil unrest. Brazil also saw declines in health, ecosystem services, and human habitat scores. (Note: This was before President Trump decided to pull the United States from the Paris Agreement.)

“At a time when adaptation to climate change is critical, this data shows that policymakers are a key component to ensuring countries large and small are prepared to face potentially devastating natural disasters,” said Patrick Regan, associate director of the Environmental Change Initiative for ND-GAIN and professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame.

ND-GAIN is conducting research at sub-national scales as well, said Doherty, honing in particularly on the intersection of conflict and climate change at the state and urban levels. The goal, she said, is to “avoid the preventable and manage the unavoidable in this new era.”


Sources: ND-GAIN, University of Notre Dame.


Photo Credit: A rice field in Myanmar, August 2013, courtesy of flickr user Josep Castell. Video: ND-GAIN.