Which Countries Are Most Likely to Be Wiped Out By Future Disasters?

Author: Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan




The results of a new report show which countries are the most vulnerable to risk—and the most ready to respond when disaster strikes.

Bigger storms and more flooding are some of the most most obvious ingredients in the risk stew brewed up by climate change. But what happens after the storms subside? What about all the secondary and tertiary effects of climate change? What about the challenge of finding the money or doing the infrastructural planning necessary to adapt to a changed environment, or the political stability and leadership to see a country through a time of dire food or water scarcity?

That's the kind of cause-and-effect planning that the Global Adaptation Index or GAIN has been doing since 1995. Every year GAIN, which was based in DC until it moved to become part of Notre Dame two years ago, publishes a report that ranks every country in the world on a scale from 1 to 100. The metrics that determine a country's score are twofold: First, how vulnerable is the country to climate change, defined as "sensitivity to climate, population, infrastructure and resource stress, as well as the country's adaptive capacity to those stresses"? And second, how prepared is the country to deal with those risks, in terms of "social, governance and economic factors"?

The idea is to give leaders the ability to gauge and assess how a particular country will respond to the rising tides, and all the chaos they bring with them. In November, the group met for its annual meeting to release its latest report—and the results are fascinating, if troubling.

1) We're all better prepared today than 20 years ago

GAIN has been doing its rankings since 1995, and a comparison between the earliest and most recent risk maps show us that the world, in large part, is better prepared than it was in the 1990s.


2) Norway is the most prepared of all

Yep, the country with the 7th longest coastline in the world is also the most prepared for climate change. In fact, the report points out, it's been #1 for preparedness for two decades, thanks to high scores for food stability, healthcare, access to clean water, and energy infrastructure.

3) The most at-risk countries are war-torn (and mostly land-locked)

The countries most at risk and least prepared are in Africa, and all of them have been destabilized by war—from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Chad, which occupies the last spot on the list. Most have a dearth of agricultural and medical resources combined with infrastructural and political insecurity.


4) Russia and China are getting better, Jordan is getting worse

In its release notes, GAIN points out the countries that have risen the highest and dropped the lowest. While Russia and China are improving, Jordan fell by 31 points—seemingly because of its low scores when it comes to fresh water access and dam capacity, a big issue for plenty of Middle Eastern countries.

5) If you're looking for a safe haven, go to Scandinavia

Norway won the day, but all of Scandinavia made it into the top ten, alongside other Northern European countries, the US, Germany, and Australia and New Zealand. "Many do face moderate exposure to climate change, but they have good capacities to deal with the potential climate risks, including high access to amenities such as electricity, sanitation and clean drinking water," a release explains.