Developing countries should heed climate change risks when rebuilding after extreme weather events: study

Developing countries recovering from extreme weather events should reshape their economies to adapt to future climate risks instead of only trying to restore existing economic activities, according to a paper published today by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at London School of Economics and Political Science.

The authors of the paper – Dr Adriana Kocornik-Mina and Professor Sam Fankhauser – find that attempts by developing countries to adapt to climate change have tended to ignore fast-paced structural changes to their economies. They argue that developing countries can best adapt to climate change if they acknowledge how rapidly their economies are evolving, particularly in rural areas.

The paper states: “Current approaches to adaptation often seek to preserve current structures, for example by protecting agricultural output, which neither acknowledges nor takes advantage of the fact that the status quo is evolving.”

It adds: “Effective adaptation policy must do more than simply shore up the status quo or protect economic activity that may soon be a relic of the past.”

The desire to protect existing activities can be particularly strong following natural disasters, when an economy is at its most vulnerable. However, it is argued that extreme weather events provide an opportunity for countries to adapt and become increasingly resilient to future climate risks.

The paper states: “After an extreme event, there is a temptation to rebuild the economy just as it was before, rather than factoring in manifest climate risks.”

For instance, adaptation plans often put too much emphasis on declining sectors, such as agriculture, and fail to invest in smaller sectors, such as the service sector, which are growing much more rapidly.

The paper points out that economic development plans tend to underestimate the risks associated with climate change, stating: “In climate change risk assessments, the anticipated future climate change is often imposed on today’s economies, rather than those of the future.”

The paper concludes that economic growth can actually help reduce long-term climate risk. It calls on economic development plans to accurately estimate climate risks and for climate change adaptation plans to take account for how a country’s economy is changing.

It states that “rapid economic change offers an opportunity to alter for the long term the risk profile of developing economies with respect to climate change. There is the possibility to build climate resilience into decisions from the outset. The economic structures and the physical infrastructure put in place now will determine risk profiles for decades to come.”

The report on ‘Climate change adaptation in dynamic economies’ was produced as part of the Grantham Research Institute’s programme on ‘Growth and the economy’, sponsored by the Global Green Growth Institute.

For more information about this media release, and to obtain copies of ‘Climate change adaptation in dynamic economies’, please contact Ben Parfitt on +44 (0) 207 955 6425 or, or Bob Ward on +44 (0) 7811 320346 or

1. Based in Seoul, GGGI is an intergovernmental organization founded to support and promote green growth. The organization partners with countries to help them build economies that grow strongly, are more efficient and sustainable in the use of natural resources, less carbon intensive, and more resilient to climate change. GGGI works with countries around the world, building their capacity and working collaboratively on green growth policies that can impact the lives of millions. To learn more, see and visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

2. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment ( was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (

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