2. What will a warmer world be like?
Vulnerability and adaptation
How much a country is affected depends, of course, on how much it is exposed to climate change. For example, a country without a coastline will not experience sea level rise and it is unlikely that Northern Europe will suffer greatly from droughts. But how hard a country is hit depends not only on what particular changes it is exposed to, but how well it is able to cope with, or adapt to, these changes. In other words, the overall impact of climate change on a country depends both on its vulnerability and on its adaptive capacity.
Vulnerability refers to how easily a country can be damaged by climate change. Adaptive capacity, on the other hand, refers to how able a society is to make the necessary changes to be better prepared to handle climate change.
A vulnerable society with little adaptive capacity will suffer more from climate change than a society that is less vulnerable or has a greater adaptive capacity. It is often the case that the poorest countries are the worst off when it comes to both vulnerability and adaptive capacity.
Example: Vulnerability to sea-level rise
Today, 46 million people live in flood-endangered areas. A sea-level rise of half a meter will put 92 million people at risk, while a rise of one meter increases the number to 118 million (this is without taking future population growth into consideration).
Loss of land area can be significant for coastal and island states and flat lowlands such as the Netherlands, Denmark, the Maldives, and Bangladesh.