The NY Times is starting to write about climate adaptation and today it has a nice set of images and words about the fate of Bangladesh. As a climate change adaptation optimist, how much of a challenge does Bangladesh pose as a salient case? Let's look at some data I downloaded from the World Bank's WDI data base on this nation's real per-capita GDP over the last 50 years.
Point #1 is that since 1980 there has been sharp economic growth. While this is still a very poor nation, if this growth were to continue for another decade then more and more people in this nation will have the resources to protect themselves against the serious threat of flooding. This of Japan, South Korea or China. These nations were very poor in the not so recent past and yet few worry about their ability to adapt to climatic shocks.
Point #2: Adaptation is more likely to be achieved when people anticipate the challenge. So, how is Bangladesh adapting? For those who want to read some serious stuff; take a look at this and this and this.
Point #3; Don't forget about fertility trends and the quality vs. quantity tradeoff.
Take a look at this graph of this nation's births per woman.
Do you see the demographic transition taking place? This nation is following a classic pattern such that the new generation of kids will have more human capital and financial capital and this will allow many of them to move to nations such as China that will need an influx of young immigrants in the near future. There are gains to trade in international labor markets. The system of cities provides a diversified strategy for collectively protecting us from known unknowns.
Note the distinction here between damage to physical places versus people. We will be better able to adapt to climate change if we allow for more mobility and options to locate and live your life in our hotter future.
I made all of these points in my Climatopolis. For those who want even more optimism in your life, take a look at Matt Ridley's piece in the WSJ today.