Middle Income Developing Nations May Have Harder Time Adapting to Climate Change Than Poorest

Marufish/CC BY-SA 2.0

This one seems pretty intuitive to me actually: New research coming out the University of Nottingham's School of Geography finds that when it comes to adapting to climate change both the poorest places on the planet and the wealthiest may fare better than those in the middle rungs of global income.

The quotes from Dr Simon Gosling in Phys.org sum it up well:

We're finding a real trade-off between adaptation and development...you can't assume that by promoting it you're also helping people adapt to climate change. It's not that traditional is always better, but as people move from traditional to modern they lose things.

You might assume getting richer would always make a country safer from drought and famine, but that turns out not to be the case. Instead, the very poorest countries seem to become more vulnerable in the early stages of development. There's a crucial period, before the benefits of modernization start to kick in, when developing countries become more vulnerable to problems like drought than when they started. [...]

There seems to be a dangerous middle ground where the old ways no longer function, but the new ways aren't up and running yet, and people are at their most vulnerable. Development has damaged traditional agriculture, but they can't yet use capital-based adaptation strategies, from fertilizers and bank loans to higher-yielding breeds of cow.

Read more: Phys.org

This is something I've long suspected.

Wealthy countries can simply buy their way out of some climate change problems, if certainly not all of them, and can absorb greater costs for energy. But we've lost a giant host of traditional skills that are alive and well (at least for a while, as Dr Gosling research shows) in developing nations. We've also created a group psychological situation that expects modernity, expects a certain level of comfort and convenience that is well higher than what is ecologically sustainable and globally equitable. We've lost some practical and psychological skills that aren't yet gone in many places. Again, this can only go so far, and money can buy time in this case, for a while.

On the other end of the scale, where money is lacking, many of those traditional coping skills are closer to being intact. Which isn't to say by any means that climate adaptation will be easy. Just that when you're already living a low-carbon lifestyle by default, it's easier to transition to one (and hopefully take on the cleantech aspects of modernity, skipping the polluting-tech).

The tragedy of course is that when you examine those places where climate change is predicted to have the greatest impact and make life the most hard compared to now, it often coincides with those places least able to adapt.

In any case, some interesting research here.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Solutions