To What Extent are African Countries Vulnerable to Climate Change? Lessons of a New Indicator of Physical Vulnerability to Climate Change

Patrick Guillaumont, Ferdi and Université d’Auvergne and Catherine Simonet, Cerdi, CNRS-Université d‘Auvergne, France

This paper examines the vulnerability of African countries to climate change, relying on an index of structural or physical vulnerability to climate change at the country level, noted below by the acronym CCPVI, recently set up by the authors and made available on the Ferdi website.

The design of this index draws both on the environmental literature and some principles applied at the United Nations to measure structural economic vulnerability, through the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) for the identification of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

As an environmental index, the CCPVI index relies on components reflecting physical consequences of climate change that can directly affect population welfare and activity, rather than on an assessment of their economic consequences. At the same time this index of vulnerability to climate change refers only to the vulnerability that does not depend on the present will of the country, in other words to a “structural” or “physical” vulnerability, keeping aside resilience, usually integrated in vulnerability assessments, but largely depending on policy factors.

The components of the index respectively capture the climate change related risks of increasing recurrent shocks (such as droughts) and risks of progressive and irreversible shocks (such as flooding due to higher sea level). Moreover they refer either to the likely size of the shocks or to the country’s exposure to these shocks.

The study evidences a high heterogeneity among countries in the level of physical vulnerability to climate change, even within a same regional area or continent. On average African countries, already found to evidence a relatively high economic vulnerability (with regard to the UN Economic Vulnerability Index); also show a high physical relative vulnerability to climate change, but with significant differences among those countries, mainly due to the risk of drought. The index permits the characterization of the climate change vulnerability for developing countries, particularly African countries, laying some foundations to perform the adaptation policies.

In the context of growing concern in the international community to mobilize human and monetary resources to deal with the adaptation issues, such an index can improve the understanding of the challenges of climate change for African countries. In particular the CCPVI is likely to be considered as one of the relevant criteria in the allocation of resources for adaptation between countries.

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