Presenting the Urgent Need for Countries to Adapt to Climate Change

El Diario de Hoy

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tomas Guevara

Correspondent in Washington

Princeton University in New Jersey, The Global Adaptation Institute presented its report on countries’ status [rankings in the GAIN Index] 

The famous Princeton University in New Jersey, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world, hosted last week a presentation by the Global Adaptation Institute – an analytical center located in Washington, D.C. At the legendary Robertson Hall, the Institute’s team unveiled the [GAIN] Index for countries to adapt to climate change.

The CEO of the Global Adaptation Institute, Dr. Juan José Daboub, a Salvadoran economist and former professor of the faculty of Economics at Princeton made the presentation in front of an audience of professors, researchers, students and private sector representatives.

On a day of torrential rain that made it difficult to walk around the beautiful university town - built in 1756 in Princeton and ten years after the university was founded in Elizabeth New Jersey - data was broken down showing the countries’ readiness to adapt to climate change.

The Salvadoran economist Dr. Daboub, and the American Scientist Ian Noble, explained technical details of this important Index that is being considered as a world reference to display the investment risks of countries that have postponed their preparedness to disasters. These disasters are caused by increased rainfall, droughts, and floods that occur in coastal areas due to the rising sea levels that are caused by melting glaciers.

The GAIN Index 2012 measures 50 variables in 176 countries around the world and analyzes its situation so that people can prioritize in key sectors such as natural resource protection, infrastructure development, coastal areas protection, and seek ways to generate energy. In addition, the Index foresees investment security by observing governments’ actions, explained Daboub to an attentive audience.

While Princeton seems an ideal place with old, dark stone buildings, chapels, libraries, gardens and forest trails, where teachers and students ride their bicycles from their homes to their classroom, the reality of the planet we live in might as well be the complete opposite.

Prior to the creation of this think tank, which has been operating since 2010, the economist Juan José Daboub served as Managing Director of the World Bank in Washington, D.C., and was responsible for overseeing projects in more than 70 countries worldwide. He explained to the audience that the magnitude seen in the disparity of rainfall over large regions of the world, creating flooding and droughts alike, should lead to reflection, in addition to allowing us to see the economic impact that it has on these countries.

Dr. Daboub and Dr. Noble presented this information in a systematic way, using a database that is free of charge and can be accessed over the Internet. The database gathers information from an array of international organizations.

Juan José Daboub emphasizes that the think tank he leads has decided to focus its attention on the four areas of most concern and that work as the backbone for the countries’ development, which includes concern for water resources in terms of conservation and exploitation.

Likewise, ensuring food production against a shortage of food caused by droughts and excessive rains is another topic of importance for organizations such as the United Nations and its agencies.

As the scientist Noble explains, the Index is a tool that is serving as a good guide for the scientific community and which transcends into other sectors so that they are able to interact with each other to prepare for the imminent impact that climate change will have on society as a whole.

After the Global Adaptation Institute’s presentation, Princeton University, located 84 kilometers from the city of New York, shared with its network of academic centers around the world, the content of the presentations given during the Institute’s visit, as well as a report of the debate that followed. 

El Salvador needs more preparation to deal with natural disasters

El Salvador ranks 79th - an evident lag and a slight drop in vulnerability from its position 10 years ago.

According to the Global Adaptation Institute’s Index, El Salvador has taken a notable backward step in the last few years, after having little progress in the country’s readiness to adapt to climate change.

The Salvadoran economist Juan José Daboub, Director of the Analytical Centre, explains that the country maintains the same 79th position as in 2011. The Index, which uses data from different sources such as the World Bank, the United Nations’ Agencies, and risk ratings, shows a slight drop in the last eight years.

Dr. Daboub explains that between 1998 and 2004, the country had its best rating and then returns to levels even lower than 2005, when the measuring range of vulnerability dropped. Nevertheless, its rating has steadily increased in line with the ratings in the first half of the 1990s. The data comes from the Global Development Indicator produced by the World Bank.

"From 1995 to 2010, El Salvador showed significant progress, having a better ability to prepare itself and adapt. Unfortunately, from around 1998 to 2005, the country stagnated. It hasn’t improved or worsened in the Index overall, "said Daboub.

Among the negative indicators that place El Salvador halfway, the following can be mentioned: malnutrition, poverty belts in urban areas and internal migration. When comparing population displacements, El Salvador is similar to what happens in countries like Mozambique, Nigeria, Solomon Islands and Honduras.

This technical tool is available at the website The GAIN Index, which compares countries, may involve a drop in the Country Rankings for those who do less, whereas the better prepared ones improve their GAIN score.

Juan José Daboub

“El Salvador had the best progress between 1998 and 2003”

El Salvador has had a setback of more than 10 years on the challenge of climate change.

Juan José Daboub, the Salvadoran economist and Founding CEO of the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN) to climate change - a think tank in Washington, D.C., speaks about a tool that shows a country’s diagnostic and evaluates it as a channel for businesses.

What is the mission two years after its creation?

The Institute’s principal objective is to bring more attention to the urgent need to adapt to all the changes we are currently witnessing, particularly those related to climate change, but also to those related to population movements, urbanization and others. Since the Institute’s creation in 2010, we have seen a greater interest in matters related to adaptation.

What does the 2012 Index contain?

This is a more robust and improved version compared with the one from last year, in the sense that with the previous one, we measured only 161 countries. Now, we have the ability to measure the situation of 176 countries out of 198 countries in the world, meaning that we are about to reach the entire globe. We measure 50 indicators on vulnerability and readiness in terms of the countries’ last 16 years. 

How does the Institute contribute to businesses? 

It is a tool that can show a snapshot of X country and the conditions that apply to investing in that country. In other words, it helps to detect the needs in terms of water, food, agriculture, infrastructure, education, health, etc. It also assesses the fiscal and institutional capacity of countries and their corruption level.

What is the general situation of Latin America?  

Latin America, as a region, has been improving its position with respect to the remainder of the world.  It has been able to reduce some of its vulnerabilities or has increased its readiness during the period when productive investments have taken place. Latin America is led by Chile - thanks to its economic reforms and openness to sensitive sectors such as the water sector - followed by Uruguay, Colombia and Peru.

What is El Salvador’s performance?

Between 1998 and 2003, El Salvador shows its greatest improvements in reducing vulnerability or increasing its readiness, but the trend is now that its ranking is beginning to decline. The decline was such that since 2008 we have been steadily reaching the same levels we started with in 1997.