According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll out today, 83 percent of Americans believe the Earth is warming. That's an 8-point jump from last year! Science seems to be winning the global warming debate, despite what the GOP presidential candidates say. (Except for the Mormon ones, curiously.) Anyways, now that we all agree that global warming is real, we can move on to an even more important question: Who's the most screwed by climate change?
The pleasantly pastel-colored map of the world above hides a pretty inconvenient truth (if you will): It shows which countries are the best and least able to adapt to potential climate change. The map is based on an index created by the Global Adaptation Institute, an environmental nonprofit, that measures "a country's ability to address its vulnerabilities to climate change," says Ian Noble, the institute's chief scientist. The index takes into account exposure to climate change (For example, is a country susceptible to drought?), natural susceptibility to these changes (Does it have adequate and accessible water supplies for said drought?), and governmental, economic, and social factors important to responding to changes (Can that country's government invest in water systems for, again, said hypothetical drought?). In the map, light blue indicates the best scores, while red is the worst.
Topping the index are the small, rich European nations of Denmark, Switzerland, and Ireland, followed by Australia and New Zealand out in the Pacific. The bottom seven nations are all in Africa, with the Central African Republic in last place. The U.S. takes the No. 10 spot. Overall, developed nations dominate the top of the list. Yes, being rich helps with a lot of things, including climate change. The lowest scores generally occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia--poor regions without the necessary resources or existing infrastructure to handle a global warming-related disaster.
South America offers an increasing exception: For its income level, the continent seems relatively well insulated for the effects of global warming. According to Noble, "lower population density and abundant natural resources in South America put this continent in a less vulnerable position than most nations in Africa, for instance, where desertification, conflict and lack of opportunities have left many regions very vulnerable and not prepared to adapt." He adds that South American countries have a bit more economic and political stability than those in Africa.
Forget Notorious B.I.G. For climate change, more money means fewer problems.