Global Distributions of Vulnerability to Climate Change


  • Gary W Yohe Wesleyan University
  • Elizabeth Malone Pacific National Laboratories
  • Antoinette Brenkert Pacific National Laboratories
  • Michael Schlesinger Unversity of Illinios
  • Henk Meij Wesleyan University
  • Xiaoshi Xing CIESIN, Columbia University


vulnerability, adaptive capacity, mitigation, global distribution


In this brief paper we respond to the apparent contradiction in two conclusions of the Third Assessment Report (the TAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC (2001a)]. In one conclusion the IPCC states that developing countries will be most vulnerable to climate change; in another, the TAR reports that we are unable to predict adaptive responses to site-specific exposures to climate impacts. Here we explore how variation in adaptive capacity and climate impacts can be seen to influence the global distribution of vulnerability. We find that all countries will be vulnerable to climate change, even if their adaptive capacities are enhanced. Developing nations are most vulnerable to modest climate change, and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions would diminish their vulnerabilities significantly. Developed countries would benefit most from mitigation for moderate climate change. Extreme climate change overwhelms the abilities of all countries to adapt.