There is no doubt in most scientific projections that climate change will affect all countries of the world, but their impact cannot be felt equally.
The countries most likely to suffer in the fight against climate change are often the planet’s poorest and least developed, as they lack the resources and infrastructure to bounce back after catastrophic weather events. This was assumed by the University of Notre Dame’s ND-Gain Index – a report that analyzed 181 countries based on a number of factors contributing to vulnerability to climate change, as well as their readiness to adapt to a warming planet. Factors to be considered include health care, food supply and state stability.
A group called Environmental experts examined Notre Dame̵
What they found is that the list of bottom-10 is filled with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where Somalia is identified as the country most likely to survive climate change. These nations performed poorly due to poor infrastructure, unstable governance, lack of health care and scarcity of food and water.
The least vulnerable countries were largely Scandinavian and relatively wealthy, with united governments setting high targets for future carbon neutrality. The results also highlight the need for these richer, more established nations to support the world’s most vulnerable countries going forward.
“With climate change described as one of the greatest challenges of our time, the effects of destructive changes in temperature, precipitation and agriculture will affect every country. These findings highlight the need for richer, more technologically advanced nations to help less developed countries,” says environmentalist Jonathan Whiting. “Ultimately, there will be no winners of the effects of climate change, each country will be affected in some way. How much depends on the decisions that world leaders make now.”
The top countries ranked by resilience to climate change
The Nordic nation consistently ranks high when it comes to its ability to tackle climate change, and in 2020 Norway presented its improved Paris Agreement target, which is set to reduce emissions by at least 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Norway also continues to lead record share of electric cars – in 2019, the share of sold electric cars in the country rose to as much as 42 percent.
When walking around the country, it is clear to see what Norway’s priorities are, as smart street lights light up the sidewalks and automatically lower the light level in many homes and buildings when no one is around to save electricity.
2. New Zealand
New Zealand, like many other countries, has an interest in mitigating climate change. But the oceanic land has a special reason: its wealth depends largely on natural resources. Agricultural raw materials, timber products, fisheries and tourism are all important to the country’s economic health, and economists estimate that almost 80 percent of these exports are sensitive to climate change.
However, the country’s social system is expected to cope well with the threat of climate change with its significant component of social welfare and minimal to non-existent levels of corruption and abuse in its system of government. At the end of 2019, New Zealand passed a law setting a zero target for all greenhouse gases by 2050, except for biogenic methane, which is mostly emitted by sheep and cattle.
Finland’s climate policy is often touted for its two-pronged approach aimed at both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing the bioeconomy. The European country’s climate change law implemented a policy aimed at reducing emissions by a staggering 80 percent by 2050, and more immediate targets for 2030 aim to reduce emissions in transport, housing and agriculture.
The country’s vast forest areas and stores of renewable biomass have also become a major focus for energy production in the coming decades, as the use of wood-based energy already accounts for almost 25 percent of its total energy consumption. Finland has also implemented a Cleantech initiative that provides incentives for sustainable consumption, production and innovation.
An aggressive new climate law was passed by the Danish parliament last December with the aim of reducing the country’s carbon emissions to 70 percent of its 1990 levels by 2030. The country’s long-term goals include carbon neutrality by 2050.
Under the law, the government will be held accountable for these goals by setting a legally binding emissions target across the sectors of the economy every five years, and Parliament can force the Minister of Climate and Energy out of office if insufficient progress is made.
The Scandinavian country Sweden’s climate target includes reducing emissions by 59 percent compared to the 2005 level by 2030, where emissions from domestic transport will be reduced by even higher 70 percent the same year. Sweden has also made every effort to set up a council of climate policy experts in an effort to further reduce emissions.
The country’s clean energy sector has seen great progress, as renewable energy such as hydropower and biofuels now account for 54 percent of Sweden’s energy consumption. Its efforts to educate the public on climate issues also help, as a survey showed that 26 percent of Swedes cite climate change and environmental status as a cause for concern compared to an EU average of only 6 percent.
In fact, the small, landlocked country of Switzerland was the first in the world to submit a formal climate plan for reducing emissions until 2030 to the UN back in 2015, months before the Paris Climate Agreement was even adopted. They have recently confirmed plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and join only a handful of other nations that communicated with the UN this year.
Technology-driven Singapore is certainly not isolated from the worsening effects of climate change, its annual average temperature and sea level rise over the last few decades. The Meteorological Service Singapore’s Center for Climate Research suggests that, at worst, floods could rise by nearly 4 meters and take effects like storm surges – an increase that would plunge cities from New York to Shanghai and London if repeated globally. To combat these expected effects, Singapore has devised a $ 72 billion plan to protect itself from rising temperatures and floods.
The Austrian “Green” party had a series of victories earlier this year after weeks of negotiations with Sebastian Kurz, the leader of the Conservative Austrian People’s Party. The result is a coalition agreement in which the Greens lead four ministries, including those that undertake environmental and justice portfolios. Austria will now seek carbon neutrality by 2040 and will put a price on CO2 emissions.
By 2030, all of Austria’s electricity is expected to be produced from renewable energy sources, and flight costs will be bumped in an attempt to get more of its citizens to resort to traveling by train.
In August last year, the small Nordic nation Iceland held a funeral for the Okjökull Glacier, the first Icelandic glacier to be lost to the effects of climate change. Now Iceland aims to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2040 and seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. Its climate action plan contains no less than 48 planned actions to help it achieve its goals of reducing emissions and achieving carbon neutrality.
Despite that Germany was ranked as one of the hardest hit countries by climate change in 2018, the european country aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 with a preliminary goal of reducing emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to its 1990 levels.
The country adopted its first national climate law just last year, which set annual reduction targets for individual sectors such as industry and transport by 2030. If a target is missed or exceeded, the law reads that the difference is evenly distributed over the remaining annual emissions budgets in the sector until 2030.