From melting polar ice to hotter temperatures and sinking coastlines, the consequences of climate change impact everyone on the planet. From increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, worsening air pollution and droughts that jeopardize food and water security; no one is immune. However, as many specialists have discovered, climate change disproportionately affects marginalized and poorer communities, some of whom are forced to flee their homes as a result of growing climate migration. Poorer countries haven’t caused climate change, yet are being forced by the West largely, to suffer the worst consequences. While it is critical that the global community works together to drastically and rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in climate change adaptation, it is natural for individuals with resources and capabilities to seek out the finest locations to live in order to avoid climate change.
Where can you find the best places to live that aren't being affected by climate change? This is a difficult question to answer. Is it possible to mean countries that have advantageous geographic features, such as not being severely affected by climate change in the future? Does it imply countries that make the most effort to counteract climate change? Or does it refer to those who are most likely to adapt to it? We look at the top-performing nations in each of the three categories: geographical advantages, mitigation, and adaptation.
New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland were named by a research paper published by the Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom as having “favourable starting conditions” that could help them be less impacted by climate change. The findings are based on an assessment of a species' carrying capacity, or the average population size in a given habitat, isolation, and self-sufficiency.
In terms of food availability, all of these nations, with the exception of the United Kingdom, have a small population and a high percentage of agricultural land, and they have direct access to seas. This suggests that they are well-endowed in terms of food supply.
When it comes to isolation, these five countries are largely cut off from heavily populated areas. According to the research, isolated communities are more likely to be "lifeboats" because economic recession and social turmoil will likely occur as a result of climate change when globalisation is reversed. As a result, in the worst-case scenario, isolated countries are less impacted by economic and social turmoil in their neighbours.
Finally, in terms of self-sufficiency, these nations have a lot of renewable energy and non-renewable energy resources, indicating their significant potential to go energy independent.
On Climate Mitigation
According to the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), an independent monitoring organization, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are ranked as the top three countries in climate protection, followed by the United Kingdom. The Global Greenhouse Gas Index is designed to represent nations' efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, embrace renewable energy, use energy in an efficient and responsible manner, and develop climate-friendly policies.
Surprisingly, the previous four countries with the greatest geographic advantage are not among those who have implemented the most climate-change mitigation policies and actions. In reality, the Climate Action Tracker considers Australia to be one of the world's worst offenders when it comes to climate policies that are not in line with the Paris Agreement — if all countries follow the Agreement's level of ambition, global warming will reach 4°C, resulting in a climatic disaster. And Ireland has actually seen an increase in carbon emissions in 2022, unique for Europe! So certain Governments need to up their game in terms of actual execution. White Papers and aspiring statements from politicians are not the same as actually executing a plan.
In the event of a climate catastrophe, one country's mitigation efforts might not make much of a difference, therefore we need strong international mitigation measures now to ensure a beneficial impact.
On Climate Adaptation
There is a belief that a country's vulnerability to climate change is directly linked to its exposure to the physical aspects of global warming, which implies that the most fragile nations are most exposed to physical hazards. However, while this is generally true, there are still several countries that face bodily dangers but are less vulnerable to climate change.
Japan is the fourth most affected country by climate change, according to the Climate Change Performance Index, having suffered from natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and tsunamis with sufficient frequency and severity. Yet, according to the ND-GAIN Index from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, which assesses a country's vulnerability to climate change and readiness to strengthen resilience, Japan is ranked 17th best in the world. In other words, while the island country will almost certainly experience worsening effects of climate change, they have shown to be more adaptable and recover faster.
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden are all recognized among the top 10 nations in the ND-GAIN Index. Despite the fact that they are not the most climate-affected countries, the report puts them in the middle of the global rankings when it comes to physical exposure as temperatures in the Arctic Circle are rising twice as fast as elsewhere on Earth, causing sea levels to rise.
However, this information shows that we have the capacity to adapt to climate change rather than fleeing our country and seeking “lifelines” when we exceed 1.5°C. We require a global commitment to the most vulnerable nations, which are largely found in Africa, the Middle East, and South America. The climate debt that wealthy nations (and historical carbon emitters) have committed to paying USD$100 billion per year in adaptation and resilience work in the developing world starting in 2022 is also included.
The Main Takeaway
There is no simple solution to the question of where to live to avoid global warming, because it is entirely subjective when it comes to the potential severity of its consequences. Scandinavian countries are the greatest options if you believe in our present climate action and trajectory in mitigating global warming through mitigation and adaptation. On the other hand, for those who are extremely pessimistic, trapped in isolation, and self-sufficient, internationalism is generally a better option. Finally, not everyone has the financial means or capacity to relocate, and people should not be compelled to leave their homes to avoid the consequences of human dependence on fossil fuels and environmental degradation.
It's unclear whether the world can limit greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C, but we do have all of the tools and policy instruments to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as assured access to land for cultivation, crops, and water. Rich countries need morally to lead (and pay) and this is key to a ‘just transition’.