How To Mitigate Climate Change

The University of Notre Dame maintains a “Global Adaptation Index”, a quantitative measure of how exposed different countries are to the predicted ravages of climate change. The index runs from 0 to 100, with zero representing maximum exposure and 100 representing no exposure (i.e. it’s backwards, but we’ll live with that). The methodology it uses to generate the numbers is described in this recent article and summarized thus:

The Notre Dame-Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) is a free open-source index that shows which countries are most exposed to climate change impacts and their current vulnerability to the disruptions that will follow, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, cyclones, security risks and so forth, as well as their readiness to leverage private and public sector investment for adaptation actions. ND-GAIN brings together 45 indicators to measure the 178 UN countries from 1995 to the present.

The Huffington Post recently plotted the Notre Dame numbers on a map of the world and published it in an article entitled The Countries That’ll Survive Global Warming. Here’s the map:

Figure 1:  Notre Dame “Global Adaptation Index” by country

I looked at it and thought; that distribution looks familiar …..

And indeed it was. Change a few greens to blues and pinks to browns and it’s very much like Wikipedia’s world map of per-capita GDP:

Figure 2: Nominal per-capita GDP by country, $US 2013

Which is interesting because Notre Dame didn’t use GDP in calculating the index values, meaning that we are looking at two independent variables:

Two kinds of indicators are explicitly not included in ND-GAIN. The first is GDP per capita or any of its closely related measures.

The possibility of a link between exposure to climate change and GDP seemed worth pursuing, so I downloaded the Notre Dame numbers and compared them with the UN’s nominal per-capita GDP data. My idea was to see whether I could obtain a numerical estimate of how much of a country’s exposure to climate change is governed by its per-capita GDP and how much by actual climatic changes.

I began by constructing an XY plot of exposure (I’m calling it that because “ND-GAIN” is ugly and uninformative) against per-capita GDP for all of the 174 countries for which I had data:

Figure 3: Exposure to climate change (Notre Dame ND-GAIN  Index) versus per capita GDP, all data

There’s a clear relationship, although it isn’t linear and the plot gets a little ragged along the bottom edge. The raggedness, however, is caused dominantly by countries where per-capita GDP is swollen by oil and/or gas revenues that do not trickle down to the capitas in the street (the three worst offenders are labeled). Accordingly I discarded these countries as non-representative. I also discarded Luxembourg, which owes its high per-capita GDP partly to its banking industry and partly to the fact that many of the people who work there don’t live there (they commute in from France, Belgium and Germany). These discards cut the number of data points from 174 to 156 but cleaned up the plot considerably:

Figure 4: Exposure to climate change (Notre Dame ND-GAIN  Index) versus per capita GDP, data for 18 countries discarded

Next I fitted the points using the equation exposure = 9 * log(GDP) – 21. The fit gives an R squared value of 0.89:

Figure 5: Figure 4 data with logarithmic fit

And an R squared value of 0.89 means in broad terms that about 90% of a country’s exposure to climate change is governed by its per-capita GDP and only 10% by actual changes in climate.

Which in its turn means that we are going about climate change mitigation entirely the wrong way. Instead of spending trillions of dollars building wind farms and rooftop solar installations in futile attempts to cut CO2 emissions we should be sending money to the poor countries to beef up their per-capita GDP. A mere $200 billion a year would double the per-capita GDPs of the fourteen most threatened countries and leave the 240 million people living there far better prepared to face the ravages of climate change, when and if they ever hit.

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73 Responses to How To Mitigate Climate Change

  1. Joe Clarkson says:

    Even though Notre Dame didn’t use GDP per capita directly in assessing how well a country would adapt to climate change, it may be that they did look at the robustness of public and private infrastructure. Well built homes, highways, water delivery and power delivery systems would be better able to withstand more extreme weather events as the climate changes. Reinforced concrete costs a lot more than mud bricks, but it can withstand a lot more abuse. The difference in quality would reflect differences in historic levels of expenditure on infrastructure, which should also be highly correlated with current GDP per capita.

  2. Euan Mearns says:

    Roger, this is fascinating at many levels. One anomaly that jumps out at me is Greenland. Is that because it is classified as Denmark? Or is it because a return of the south to a green and fertile land is seen as a good thing for the Greenlanders, preferable to glacial advance crushing their homes?

    I was concerned that I couldn’t track the raw data from your links but I guess this is it here

    Wrong thinking is leading humanity towards a catastrophe which is I believe what the architects of wrong thinking want. Rather than imposing carbon budgets on developed and developing countries that will lead to impoverishment of all the UN should as you suggest be setting targets for electrification of the developing world (if they have to set targets at all). This is the first step to developing these societies and their economies that will I believe also have a positive outcome on fertility and population growth.

    • A C Osborn says:

      Euan, Agenda 21 writ large.
      Roger, that is a very interesting study and I am sure they have not really looked at what the Climate is doing in those countries.
      There has been no proof that a warming world will cause any of the things they mention, warming and CO2 cause more moisture in the Atmosphere & “Greening” and not Drought. Drought tends to occur when it is cold and dry.

      I am surprised by the colour of Australia under their calculations as both drought and flooding are big there.

      • A C Osborn says:

        In fact it was the Warmist theories that actually worsened the Flooding in Australia as they were expecting continuous drought and persuaded the authorities that Water should not be discharged from the dams as it was so scarce. by the time they realised that the Dams were actually going to overflow and they did discharge the water it added to the Flooding.
        They also wasted AUS $Millions on Desalination Plants for the same continuous drought condition, none of which have been used in anger with most of them mothballed and rusting away.
        The same sort of “Green” initiatives have also worsened their Fires due to not clearing the undergrowth and providing extra fuel for the fires.
        Their have been lots of Deaths and Losses directly caused by these people and yet they are never held accountable and never own up to their mistakes.

    • Euan:

      The numeric rankings are here:

      One of the oft-forgotten facts about the Kyoto Protocol is that the primary goal of its parent document, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is to eradicate poverty. If the Frameworkers had spent their money on that instead of squandering it on wind farms we might by now be getting somewhere.

  3. Ed says:

    If you were to plot GDP per capita against population growth rates I suspect it would also be correlated in a similar way. ie the poorer a country (per capita) is, the higher it’s population growth. Hence, the chances of increasing the GDP per capita of the poorest countries are slim at best.

    Ed ( from a cafe in sunny Sicily)

  4. roberthargraves says:

    This article is a very interesting observation. I have a slightly different recommendation about the alternative.

    “Which in its turn means that we are going about climate change mitigation entirely the wrong way. Instead of spending trillions of dollars building wind farms and rooftop solar installations in futile attempts to cut CO2 emissions we should be providing electric power [rather than sending money] to the poor countries to beef up their per-capita GDP.”

    Ample, inexpensive, safe electric power is a necessity for improving economies. We’ve been working very hard to make this a global reality; please see .

    • peter2108 says:

      Have any been built?

    • Leo Smith says:

      A viable idea at least which is more than can be said for ‘renewables’ by and large.

      • peter2108 says:

        Nick Butler in the Financial Times ( ) makes the current Hinkley C project look extremely dodgy, and raises the possibility that it will never be built or if it is it will be a good few years late. The take home point is that present generation nuclear does not seem such a good option. We write here – especially Euan — as if nuclear was an available technology. Well I am not sure that at present it is. Maybe wind + gas is a low carbon stop gap before new nuclear technology is available?

        Robert Hargreaves points to a thorium molten salt reactor that the website more less describes as ready to be built. So what’s the catch? I guess it is totally unproven technology, what in sopftware is called vapourware.That’s why I asked if one had been built (or is being built). Clearly not or the website would have trumpeted it.

        • a says:

          There is absolutely nothing wrong with Nuclear, there are currently around 435 Nuclear Reactors worldwide with another 71 being built.
          But because Wind & Solar have so distorted the UK market it is making Nuclear much more expensive, especially in terms of Subsidies.
          Using a French company that is alraedy behind with current projects is not a good idea, but absolutely typical of this government and especially Ed Davey.
          We do not need Wind at all with 100s of years of Coal beneath us.

      • peter2108 says:

        Big comment rejected. Stupid software said looks like you had already said that. I used the phrase “Thats why I asked “<> ” (adjusted to block stupid software).

  5. Louis says:

    I can understand India being in the high risk zone, but why not China ?
    Whilst the average wage in China is put at just under 5000 dollars a year:

    The number of Chinese still living in a rural subsistence farming seeing is put at 750 million:

    I would have thought this puts the majority of the Chinese in the high risk category being dependent on relatively stable and predictable growing seasons ?

    This Cartogram shows a world map redrawn by population size:

    … and shows the huge population pressure generated by India and China alone, if India as a neighbour is high risk wouldn’t that necessarily impact on China given that any large scale movement of climate refugees from India would in large part be headed towards China given the geography ?

  6. Paul R says:

    What I find fascinating is its consistency with Jared Diamond’s views on how development is tied to environmental circumstances (which might suggest that if there is causality it is the other way round).

    But your conclusions are spot on. And those countries worst affected, being near the equator, are going to benefit from solar power technology much more that our Northerly climes. Of course the problem with implementing such a policy is that currently it’s us consumers paying for the renewable subsidies, not general Government funds.

  7. And there is also another interesting tool, The Global Calculator:



  8. William says:

    Richer people are better able to cope with economic stress – no surprise there. I agree with you that we should be spending more on aid to poor countries to build new infrastructure and to improve education and health (and we could stop poaching all of their qualified people). Maintaining the foreign aid budget is one aspect of current UK coalition policy that I support. But increasing foreign aid is not universally popular, quite the reverse, especially on the right of politics. It is true that aid hasn’t always shown obvious success in the past, although arguably it might have prevented countries from being even poorer. But good on you for promoting such spending.

    • Yes, richer people are causing climate change while poor people have no ways to cope with a problem caused by the rich. This we know for decades.

      And where BTW is the mitigation part? Or decreasing global C emissions is irrelevant? Peak oil seems too slow, unfortunately.



      • Yes, richer people are causing climate change

        According to the UNFCCC MATCH group emissions from the “rich” countries were in fact responsible for only 40% of the global temperature increase before 2000. With all the Chinese emissions since then the percentage would now be even lower.

        • Sam Taylor says:

          An interesting question is to ask how much of those emissions are made producing goods for rich westerners, which are only made in China due to wage arbitrage. Embedded emissions in trade is something which a few groups are looking at now, I think.

        • Of course, income inequality in China is also large, and there are rich and poor people as well. It is estimated that upper 4-5 % of richest people (NOT countries) emit ~ 50% of global C emissions. And yes, of course, there is much more “poor” people (like +95%) than those of rich, so then their emissions are more than 50%.

          Great, indeed 🙂



      • A C Osborn says:

        No actual proof of your statement “richer people are causing climate change” what so ever.

    • William says:

      Following on from that, I’d be interested to know what mechanism you have in mind for “sending money to the poor countries to beef up their per-capita GDP”, assuming you are not speaking literally 🙂 What sort of aid spending are you advocating?

  9. Sam Taylor says:


    In the pfd you linked to they state that “Despite the exclusion of GDP, ND-GAIN does show quite a high correlation with a county’s economic status, and a version of the Index is available that adjusts the index score using GDP per capita.”, thus they’re probably aware of the correlation that you highlighted.

    A gdp-adjusted map is also available on their site (, which does seem to alter things quite a bit for quite a few countries.

  10. Jamie says:

    You’re using quite an odd definition of climate change mitigation here.

    Increasing the GDP of the poorest countries won’t do anything to mitigate climate change – quite the opposite in fact. Mitigation is about reducing the severity of climate change both in terms of magnitude and rate of onset. Increasing affluence in the developing world will lead to increased emissions in the short to medium term and therefore increased climate change.

    Increasing the GDP of the poorest countries will do a lot to increase their ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change though and should therefore by aggressively pursued.

    If we don’t switch to low carbon energy sources then climate change becomes far more expensive and harder to deal with and the impacts are going to be worst in the tropics. We therefore need to mitigate and adapt simultaneously.

    • A C Osborn says:

      What impacts exactly?
      There has been no warming for around 20 years.
      No increase in Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Forest Fires, Drought, the rate of Sea Level Rise, no loss of Snow & Rain .
      So what exactly are we mitigating against?
      If there was any possible adverse affect it is far cheaper to Adapt than try and mitigate against Nature by destroying Productivity and Wealth..

  11. ducdorleans says:


    logic will bring you nowhere in this part of the world …

  12. The bottom line here is that the Notre Dame index really has nothing to do with climate change. All it does is measure exposure to weather. Whether the weather will get worse as a result of climate change remains to be seen. So far it shows few signs of doing so.

  13. William says:

    Spencer and Christy maintain the UAH satellite record, whereas Eaun’s (Monckton’s) graph is from RSS. For unknown reasons, the two records have diverged significantly in recent years with UAH tracking more closely to surface indices (i.e. showing warming) and RSS not.

    • peter2108 says:

      That’s right. Spencer is a climate sceptic so when his runs warmer than RSS I am happy because he would not slant it that way. The UAH trend is very small (said to be not statistically sitgnificant at 5% level – though I have not checked). I don’t think Moncton’s graph is very helpful, though as ammunition in the climate wars I suppose it is useful. I’m not a warrior. There are many difficult and interesting questions about the pause, but dead flat trends is not in my view one of them.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Try answering this about AGW then

        Euan, this is one to look at, the very basis of AGW apparently in error.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          AC – he could explain what G lam and f are and what the correct equation should be. This is one for Dave Rutledge and Clive to explain. Dave (who is Professor of electrical engineering at Cal Tech) has often said that in his experience any electrical system dominated by only positive feedbacks quickly goes to an extreme value and stays there.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Perhaps 0.05˚C divergence. I might add that I am tiring of the large number of petty and inaccurate comments. Might just decide to delete them all. It is pollution!

  14. William says:

    any electrical system dominated by only positive feedbacks quickly goes to an extreme value and stays there

    Euan, electrical circuits do “go to the rails” (the rails being the power supplies) when positive feedbacks dominate. Climate, unlike electronics, has a major stabilizing negative feedback in the T^4 of the Stefan–Boltzmann law. And climate feedbacks do not necessarily act over all temperature regimes, for example the positive feedback from melting ice disappears once the ice is gone. Comparing climate to electronics is perhaps not very useful.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The comments seem to have got a bit jumbled. My comment was in response to AC. His link maintains that the feedback algorithm used in all climate models, first defined by Hansen, is based on feedback in electrical systems. Evaluating this claim and the paper by Monckton et al that the blog post links to is beyond my expertise. I need Dave R or Clive to provide guidance on this.

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  16. stewgreen says:

    Breaks the “too good/bad to be true” rule, with this “Which is interesting because Notre Dame didn’t use GDP in calculating the index values, meaning that we are looking at two independent variables:”
    – yes they provide a complex methodology document, but you really have to rule out that they didn’t just cheat.

    BS2 : “The Countries That’ll Survive Global Warming” BS title : you could put up the temp 5C in 50 years and the countries would still be there. High/different land is available in all or just across the border (Bangladesh) Even coral islands would grow higher as the coral matches the sea level.

    BS3 : The whole idea that there will ever be anything other than a tiny amount of warming is looking low based on extrapolation of current trends.. until fusion or large scale nuclear comes on line.

  17. stewgreen says:

    Yes comments are a bit jumbled
    Why did my post BS1, BS2, BS3 not appear atvthe bottom of the list ?

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