Spotlight: Adaptation Is A Top Geopolitical Challenge

The Global Adaptation Institute’s Dr. Juan José Daboub, Founding CEO, was featured in the Environmental Leader’s Industry Voices on December 5. The online publication is the leading daily trade publication keeping corporate executives fully informed about energy, environmental and sustainability news.

Dr. DaboubThe global climate is changing, and leaders need information to guide their decisions for society and businesses.

Natural events in 2012 impacted hundreds of millions of lives and elevated discussion, throughout the international community, on the pressing need to adapt to these challenges.

During the World Economic Forum’s (Forum) Global Agenda Summit in Dubai, U.A.E., last week, it was announced that climate change will be a headlining topic at its Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2013.

This announcement follows calls for action by world leaders such as President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, former President of Spain José María Aznar and former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd who are heightening awareness about people’s vulnerability and exposure to major trends including climate change. During the Dubai Summit, Rudd listed adaptation as one of five top geopolitical challenges. These global leaders also recognize the need to measure what matters, as well as, have available tools to strengthen their case and make better decisions on building resilience.

Clearly, the level of adaptation awareness has been raised in the global agenda and what decision makers need now is access to metrics that help guide investments.

World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda 2012The Council on Climate Change, for which I serve as Global Chair, is focusing on adaptation – building resilience within communities to tackle climate change, urbanization, resource scarcity and other global challenges. Our first task is to assess what metrics can best help policy-makers and businesses invest to prepare for these changes. There are a number of adaptation indices that assess data and provide information about global resilience. A report from AEA (now Ricardo-AEA) for the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change explores three of the main indices in this field. In Review of international experience in adaptation indicators, the authors summarise:

1) GAIN Index: Created by the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN), this open data browser provides national level scores (and access to the underlying data) of current vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges, as well as a country’s readiness to absorb investment for 192 countries. The GAIN Index guides investment in adaptation by helping businesses and the public sector better prioritize investments for a more efficient response to global challenges. (

2) Climate Vulnerability Monitor (CVM): It advances understanding of the impacts of climate change on human society and the actions needed to address these effects. Produced by DARA, it combines measures in four areas of impact (human health, weather disasters, habitat loss and economic stress) within 184 countries, and on two timescales – 2010 and 2030. (

3) Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI): Maplecroft hosts this index that quantifies the vulnerability of 233 countries to three major effects of climate change (weather-related disasters, sea-level rise and reduced agricultural productivity). It develops risk indicators for these impacts and embeds these into a methodology for cost-effective allocation of adaptation assistance. (

The ASC has developed a framework for monitoring and evaluating the UK’s progress in adaptation, and the report compared their approach with these adaptation indices. As one can see, there is no single standard way to explore vulnerability and adaptation at the national level.

At the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN), we designed the GAIN Index while keeping the needs of the private sector at the forefront of our analysis. It is important for the private sector to use not only the GAIN Index to examine water, food & agriculture, coastal protection and energy data to assess existing company operations, but also use it as a tool to plan for future international investments. Visit the GAIN Index Country Rankings.

Gary Lawrence, AECOM Chief Sustainability Officer, is among the many sector-leading representatives participating in the Forum’s Climate Council. AECOM is a leading engineering company that understands first hand the need to develop metrics, highlight best practices and guide policy to help enable an environment that recognizes the urgent need to adapt to these global challenges.

“We care about adaptation at a variety of levels – we have 45,000 people working in 103 countries,” Lawrence said. “They and their families are at some level of risk. Part of this has to do if whether we are a good employer, and trying to anticipate locational choices. It is also a business issue because our clients within the private sector, government and NGOs, know they need to maximize their benefits over the long term. How do we – through design, development and locational decisions – ensure that money implemented in projects is stretched as long as possible?”

To save lives and improve livelihoods around the world, we must recognize that our built environment isn’t yet resilient enough to withstand volatile climate-related events and stress added by an ever-urbanizing world with significant population shifts and the need to increase access to food by many.

Company executives and government leaders need the information provided within indices to determine and prioritize funding to help protect current and future populations in our changing world. The time is now to begin adapting because, as we have seen in Thailand, Philippines, China, and more recently in New York City, our communities will suffer if we wait to invest in improving infrastructure, energy systems, food, water and coastal protection.

Dr. Juan José Daboub is founding CEO of the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN). He is also global chair of the World Economic Forum Council on Climate Change.

GAIN column reposted from Environmental Leader. 

Carousel photo courtesy of World Economic Forum, Creative Commons. The photo shows some of the working groups of the Forum Global Agenda Councils.