Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 October 2005
Poorer countries are generally believed to be more vulnerable to climate change than richer countries because poorer countries are more exposed and have less adaptive capacity. This suggests that, in principle, there are two ways of reducing vulnerability to climate change: economic growth and greenhouse gas emission reduction. Using a complex climate change impact model, in which development is an important determinant of vulnerability, the hypothesis is tested whether development aid is more effective in reducing impacts than is emission abatement. The hypothesis is barely rejected for Asia but strongly accepted for Latin America and, particularly, Africa. The explanation for the difference is that development (aid) reduces vulnerabilities in some sectors (infectious diseases, water resources, agriculture) but increases vulnerabilities in others (cardiovascular diseases, energy consumption). However, climate change impacts are much higher in Latin America and Africa than in Asia, so that money spent on emission reduction for the sake of avoiding impacts in developing countries is better spent on vulnerability reduction in those countries. His last big project in a long career, Jan Feenstra managed the Netherlands Climate Change Assistance Programme through which the Dutch Government sponsors climate change research in developing countries. He hated how climate change detracted from what he considered to be the real issues. This paper is dedicated to his memory.