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WDR 2010: Regional Vulnerability to Climate Change

World Development Report Archives

World Development Report 2010

All developing regions are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change—for different reasons. The problems common to developing countries—limited human and financial resources, weak institutions—are critical drivers of their vulnerability. But other factors, attributable to their geography and history, are also significant.


Africa RegionSub- Saharan Africa suffers from natural fragility (two- thirds of its surface area is desert or dry land) and high exposure to droughts and foods, which are forecast to increase with further climate change. The region's economies are highly dependent on natural resources. Biomass provides 80 percent of the domestic primary energy supply. Rainfed agriculture contributes some 30 percent of GDP and employs about 70 percent of the population. Inadequate infrastructure could hamper adaptation efforts, with limited water storage despite abundant resources. Malaria, already the biggest killer in the region, is spreading to higher, previously safe, altitudes.

Booklet on Africa | Africa-specific news release

East Asia & Pacific

EAP RegionIn East Asia and the Pacific one major driver of vulnerability is the large number of people living along the coast and on low- lying islands—over 130 million people in China, and roughly 40 million, or more than half the entire population, in Vietnam. A second driver is the continued reliance, particularly among the poorer countries, on agriculture. As pressures on land, water, and forest resources increase—as a result of population growth, urbanization, and environmental degradation caused by rapid industrialization—greater variability and extremes will complicate their management. In the Mekong River basin, for example, the rainy season will see more intense precipitation, while the dry season lengthens by two months. A third driver is that the region’s economies are highly dependent on marine resources—the value of well-managed coral reefs is $13 billion in Southeast Asia alone—which are already stressed by industrial pollution, coastal development, overfishing, and runoff of agricultural pesticides and nutrients.

Booklet on EAP | Html to booklet | China videos | East Asia & Pacific news release 

Europe & Central Asia

ECA RegionVulnerability to climate change in East-ern Europe and Central Asia is driven by a lingering Soviet legacy of environmental mismanagement and the poor state of much of the region’s infrastructure. An example: rising temperatures and reduced precipitation in Central Asia will exacerbate the environmental catastrophe of the disappearing Southern Aral Sea (caused by the diversion of water to grow cotton in a desert climate) while sand and salt from the dried-up seabed are blowing onto Central Asia’s glaciers, accelerating the melting caused by higher temperature. Poorly constructed, badly maintained, and aging infrastructure and housing—a legacy of both the Soviet era and the transition years—are ill suited to withstand storms, heat waves, or foods.

Latin America & Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean's most critical ecosystems are under threat. LAC RegionFirst, the tropical glaciers of the Andes are expected to disappear, changing the timing and intensity of water available to several countries, resulting in water stress for at least 77 million people as early as 2020 and threatening hydropower, the source of more than half the electricity in many South American countries. Second, warming and acidifying oceans will result in more frequent bleaching and possible diebacks of coral reefs in the Caribbean, which host nurseries for an estimated 65 percent of all fish species in the basin, provide a natural protection against storm surge, and are a critical tourism asset. Third, damage to the Gulf of Mexico’s wetlands will make the coast more vulnerable to more intense and more frequent hurricanes. Fourth, the most disastrous impact could be a dramatic dieback of the Amazon rain forest and a conversion of large areas to savannah, with severe consequences for the region’s climate—and possibly the world's.

Middle east & north africa

MNA RegionWater is the major vulnerability in the Middle East and North Africa, the world's driest region, where per capita water availability is predicted to halve by 2050 even without the effects of climate change. The region has few attractive options for increasing water storage, since close to 90 percent of its freshwater resources are already stored in reservoirs. The increased water scarcity combined with greater variability will threaten agriculture, which accounts for some 85 percent of the region's water use. Vulnerability is compounded by a heavy concentration of population and economic activity in food- prone coastal zones and by social and political tensions that resource scarcity could heighten.

South Asia

SA RegionSouth Asia suffers from an already stressed and largely degraded natural resource base resulting from geography coupled with high levels of poverty and population density. Water resources are likely to be affected by climate change, through its effect on the monsoon, which provides 70 percent of annual precipitation in a four- month period, and on the melting of Himalayan glaciers. Rising sea levels are a dire concern in the region, which has long and densely populated coastlines, agricultural plains threatened by saltwater intrusion, and many low-lying islands. In more severe climate- change scenarios, rising seas would submerge much of the Maldives and inundate 18 percent of Bangladesh's land.

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