Does wealth result in increased climate change preparedness?

Author: Jacob Miller

With tools like the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index these kinds of questions can be answered. In attempting to answer this question wealth is measured in GDP per capita, overall GDP, and economic freedom. This yields three very interesting results: Firstly, the wealth of a country can have different preparedness results from rich to poor countries. Secondly, the readiness of a country is more correlated with the wealth than the vulnerability. Thirdly, the economic freedom of a country related to climate change preparedness in vastly different ways depending on level of freedom.

1. The first of these conclusions is that wealth will have different results when it comes to climate change preparedness in wealthier countries as compared to poorer countries. This result is apparent in both the measure of GDP and GDP per capita. When the GDP and GDP per capita of the 10 poorest countries was plotted against the ND-GAIN score those countries received, there was a slightly negative correlation, meaning as the wealth of these poorer countries grew their overall rank improved. These graphs can be seen below. 

Does Wealth1

This is contrasted with the results shown in the 10 wealthiest countries of the world. When the wealth of these countries was plotted against the ND-GAIN ranking they received the trend showed as wealth increased the rank of these countries tended to decrease. This can also be seen below. 

Does Wealth2

Therefore we can assert that the wealth of a country is helpful to increased climate preparedness, but when a country has accumulated enough wealth it is no longer the sole answer to becoming more prepared. 

2. Secondly we conclude that the readiness of a country is more correlated with a countries wealth than vulnerability. In almost all examples as the wealth of a country grew its readiness also grew dramatically. One would also assume then that as wealth grew a county’s vulnerability would decrease, this was not the case. As the wealth of both the poorest and richest countries of the world grew, vulnerability often only slightly moved. This can be attributed to the reality that a country cannot control its vulnerability to natural disasters and other hazards with wealth. However it is notable to acknowledge this lack of movement in vulnerability in the discussion, when relating wealth to climate change preparedness to wealth.  The conclusions above are represented graphically below, as the readiness of the countries increases when wealth grows, and the vulnerability of the countries remains almost flat as wealth increases.

Does Wealth3

3. The third conclusion gathered from this analysis is that the economic freedom of a country affects climate change preparedness differently depending on the level of freedom a country experiences. In the 10 most economically free countries, according to the Heritage Foundation, (n.b. that an historic version of the ND-GAIN Country Index included the Index of Economic Freedom, but those data are no longer a part of the Index calculation) tend to improve in preparedness as the economic freedom increases. Inversely, as the countries with the least economic freedom gain more freedom their preparedness decreases. This can be seen graphically below. 

Does Wealth4

This relationship can possibly be a result of the lack of experience these less economically robust countries have, resulting in a lower score. However, in the end it shows an interesting perspective on the economic freedom a country experiences and the level of climate change preparedness they experience. 

Through analyzing climate change as related to wealth we have found three interesting relationships, which allow those, in the private and public sector, to plan at a deeper level than would have previously been available. These results are by no means conclusive to one result or another, but allow us to think of this issue of preparing for climate change in a new way. Wealth helps but it is by no means the answer, and at a certain point wealth will no long bring the results it once did. 


All data from pulled June, 2015