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Understanding the adaptation deficit: why are poor countries more vulnerable to climate events than rich countries?

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  • Fankhauser, Samuel
  • McDermott, Thomas K. J.

Abstract

Poor countries are more heavily affected by extreme weather events and future climate change than rich countries. One of the reasons for this is the so-called adaptation deficit, that is, limits in the ability of poorer countries to adapt. This paper analyses the link between income and adaptation to climate events theoretically and empirically. We postulate that the adaptation deficit may be due to two factors: A demand effect, whereby the demand for the good “climate security” increases with income, and an efficiency effect, which works as a spill-over externality on the supply-side: Adaptation productivity in high-income countries is enhanced because of factors like better public services and stronger institutions. Using panel data from the Munich Re natural catastrophe database we find strong evidence for a demand effect for adaptation to two climate-related extreme events, tropical cyclones and floods. Evidence on the efficiency effect is more equivocal. There are some indications that adaptation in rich countries might be more efficient, but the evidence is far from conclusive. The implication for research is that better data, in particular on adaptation effort, need to be collected to understand adaptation efficiency. In terms of policy, we conclude that inclusive growth policies (which boost adaptation demand) should be an important component of international efforts to close the adaptation deficit.

Suggested Citation

  • Fankhauser, Samuel & McDermott, Thomas K. J., 2014. "Understanding the adaptation deficit: why are poor countries more vulnerable to climate events than rich countries?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 57620, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:57620
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    climate change; adaptation; development; extreme events; disaster risk;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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