Thursday's release of the 2013 University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) showed that it will take the world's poorest countries 100 years on average to reach the level of climate readiness that the wealthiest countries already have.
The index looked at 177 countries and analyzed their adaptive capacity in terms of vulnerability and readiness by looking at food supply, ecosystems, habitat, health infrastructure, water, economy, governance, and social readiness. The index shows how each country will be able to respond to extreme weather like droughts, blizzards, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods connecting to our changing climate -- and how long it will take for each to adapt. While each country has its own trajectory, the average time needed amounts to 100 years.
It is what Jessica Hellmann, associate professor and leader of Notre Dame's climate change adaptation program, called an "enormous climate challenge."
But it isn't just the poorest nations that have work to do. In the rankings of the world's countries, even the wealthiest countries have shown trends of increasing vulnerability and decreasing readiness.
"[ND-GAIN] also show[s] 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," Hellmann said.
Additionally, countries that are not among those considered the poorest in the world may still be lagging behind.
"Given the recent typhoon in the Philippines, some people may be wondering where that island nation falls in terms of readiness," said Nitesh Chawla, associate professor and 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."
But this year's annual report was about more than ranking the world's countries based on a few factors; the overall goal conveyed for the ND-GAIN was to leverage the data collected for the common good. This information is available for anyone who may need it, including leaders in any of the 177 countries considered -- and it has already helped countries like Mozambique examine its own food security measures.
"Adaptive capacity and the ability to use information provided in the ND-GAIN will help direct investments to reduce vulnerability and increase preparedness," Chawla said.
The goal of future ND-GAINs is even more progressive, with the hopes that next year's report will look beyond just whole countries and focus on cities and regions so as to better prepare the countries for climate disruption.
-- Cindy Carr, Sierra Club Media Team Intern