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2013 ND-GAIN data show world’s poorest countries lag 100 years behind richest in preparing for climate change

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It will take the world’s poorest countries more than one century just to reach the level of climate change readiness that the richest countries already enjoy, according to data released today (Dec. 12) by the 2013 University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN).

ND-GAIN is the world’s leading annual index that 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 latest version of Notre Dame’s annual index highlights huge disparities between the developed world and developing world when it comes to being prepared for the problems climate change is expected to cause in this century.

“We knew that there were disparities between the richest and poorest countries when it comes to climate change adaptation and readiness,” said Associate Professor Jessica Hellmann, who leads Notre Dame’s climate change adaptation program. “But we did not realize that it would take more than 100 years for the poorest countries just to reach the readiness levels that the richest countries have already attained.”

Some examples of the countries on this 100-year trajectory include Cambodia, Kenya and Haiti. “Given the recent typhoon in the Philippines, some people may be wondering where that island nation falls in terms of readiness,” said Associate Professor Nitesh Chawla, director of the Notre Dame Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications. “According to the data, the Philippines are more than 40 years behind the most developed countries in climate readiness. While that’s better than the poorest countries, it shows that the Philippines still has a long way to go.”

While the ND-GAIN Index shows that countries around the world are becoming more resilient in the face of climate change, the data also show that this trend is not happening nearly fast enough — even for developed countries. “These data are sobering because they cast light on just how unprepared some of the most vulnerable nations really are,” Hellmann said. “But they also show that the most developed countries are not doing enough either, which raises serious public policy questions no matter how well-developed a national economy may be.”

This year’s data show that the ND-GAIN Index is more than just a ranking of countries. The index, which is “open source” and available to anyone with an Internet connection, contains crucial information for policymakers, the private sector and nonprofits. The index aims to unlock global adaptation solutions that save lives and improve livelihoods while strengthening market positions in the private sector and policy decisions in the public sector. It informs strategic, operational and reputational decisions regarding supply chains, capital projects and community engagements. “This year’s announcement shows that the index contains data that can clearly help decision-makers determine global, regional and national priorities,” Chawla said.

Under the United Nations-led climate talks, billions of dollars have been pledged to help the world adapt to climate change. But key questions remain on where and how that money should be spent. ND-GAIN is one tool that can help governments, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector better target those and other investments.

The 2013 Index was released on Dec. 12 at the ND-GAIN Annual Meeting hosted by the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan global public policy institution. The ND-GAIN Annual Meeting serves as the premier gathering of domestic and international experts on climate change adaptation and is attended by leading figures from the government, nonprofit and private sectors.

Media contact: Julie Hail Flory, Notre Dame Public Relations, jflory@nd.edu574-631-7031

ND-GAIN Represented at World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda

ND-GAIN Founding CEO Dr. Juan José Daboub participated in the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda as Vice Chair of the Council on Climate Change. The World Economic Forum Advisory Councils works on over 80 topics ranging from climate adaptation to economic freedom and topics for this year featured inclusiveness and youth job creation. Nearly 1,000 global leaders met in Abu Dhabi, UAE to address problems faced by people all over the world. Dr. Daboub stated: 

I am happy to see that metrics and measuring what matters have taken center stage at the WEF. Particularly on adaptation to climate change, tools like the ND-GAIN INDEX are reported to be used by private sector and civil society organizations to inform their business decisions and to provide inputs for governments on public policies related to food, water, energy and infrastructure.

The Forum looks to address this fundamental question: How do we drive change through collaboration?

ND-GAIN Participates in Discussion on Climate Change Readiness

Thanks to the World Bank’s Steve Hammer, the lead urban specialist – cities and climate change within the Urban Development and Resilience Unit, ND-GAIN participated in a lively discussion with dozens of the Bank staff about measuring a country’s readiness to face climate change. - See video here.

Turn Tragedy in the Philippines to Adaptation Action

I mourn with my Philippine kaibigans about the incalculable death and destruction wrought by Typhon Haiyan on that beautiful country and its people.  I lived and worked in the Philippines in the mid-1990s while at the U.S. Agency for International Development. I consider the country my second home.  I feel a deep sadness that so many lives were lost. Yet, I do not feel hopeless.  I know that  ways exist to increase the Philippine’s resiliency, and the solutions lie within the country, the corporate sphere and the development community.

When a climate-related disaster strikes, I turn to ND-GAIN to help provide me with answers to how to prevent future calamities.   It probably isn’t a surprise to those who have seen the Haiyan destruction that the Philippines ranks 99 of 176 countries on the ND-GAIN index..  When looked at from the perspective of the country’s vulnerability to climate disruption and its readiness to adapt, it is in the highly vulnerable and not-ready quadrant of the Readiness Matrix. It possesses a great need for investment and innovation to improve readiness as well as a great urgency for action.

Since 1995, however, the Philippine’s’ relative GAIN score has headed in the wrong direction, initially ranking 87th of 176 countries.   Several factors related to ND-GAIN account for this deterioration, including the growing perception that political unrest will trigger a destabilized government or an actual coup by unconstitutional or violent means. Other factors: its rate of population growth in urban centers and the natural-disaster risk for populations living in cities of more than 750,000 people.  If they reflected awhile that they rank with Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire and Iran in terms of their political stability and nonviolence score, they might strive to strengthen the institutions that hold the government accountable.

Several initiatives could help the Philippines in the near and longer term.  First, simply assume that decreasing the country’s exposure to extreme events involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and that the Philippines always will lie in the eye of the storm during typhoon season regardless of the extent of climate change.

The real opportunity lies in decreasing Filipinos’ sensitivity to climate disruption, increasing their adaptive capacity and boosting their economic, social and political readiness. These will increase their resilience and keep them on a path to market growth, human thriving and a caring and outward-looking world view for which they’re famous.

Based on ND-GAIN, here are three places from which to start. None are easy, but all generate hope for both the Philippines and the global community:

  • Shore up the political stability of local, regional and national government.
  • Increase the percentage of paved roads to trigger more expeditious travel on islands within the archipelago during the monsoon season.
  • Improve sanitation facilities and access to water to strengthen the population and decrease disease while freeing up community energy for commerce.

The Philippines is nababanat, or elastic, as well as resilient, and Filipinos face many more typhoons ahead.  Working together, we can save lives and improve livelihoods there and in other vulnerable regions.  As an adaptation professional deeply immersed in questions of how, I employ ND-GAIN to guide the way.

Notre Dame Students Build Resilience in Central America

See the latest video in the University of Notre Dame’s What Would You Fight For? series. It highlights the experience of Luis Llanos, a senior engineering student and member of Notre Dame Students Empowering through Engineering Development (NDSEED), a service learning course in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.

This summer will mark the sixth year that members of NDSEED will travel to Central America to a build a footbridge, empowering the local community and giving them access to a better quality of life.

These actions by Notre Dame students are helping to build resilience across Central America. See how Central American countries are improving their resilience by visiting the ND-GAIN Index

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