Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2011

Quantifying Vulnerability to Climate Change: Implications for Adaptation Assistance

David Wheeler

January 2011

Center for Global Development


The effects of climate change have been and will be worse in poor countries and small-island states, those least able to adapt to the climate-related disasters. In this paper, senior fellow David Wheeler quantifies and makes available in an accompanying database the vulnerability of 233 countries to three major effects of climate change (weather-related disasters, sea-level rise, and reduced agricultural productivity). He develops a methodology for donors and others to craft cost-effective assistance for climate adaptation which can be applied easily and consistently to all 233 states and all three problems, or to any subset. The paper includes two sample applications: assistance for the 20 island states that are both small and poor to adapt to sea-level rise and general assistance for all low-income countries to adapt to extreme weather changes, sea-level rise, and reduced agricultural productivity.