Climate change

OECD Work on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability


6 April 2007 – Press Note

Did you know that…

  • Under present conditions, 609 out of 666 Alpine ski areas in Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland can be considered as naturally snow-reliable, but OECD estimates that this number will drop to 500 if temperatures increase by 1oC, to 404 under 2oC, and to just 202 under a 4oC warming of climate.
  • Combined, Katrina (the costliest U.S. storm on record) and Rita caused an estimated USD 200 billion in damage. 100% of Gulf oil production and 94% of gas were out of service during the Katrina storm.  While these extreme weather events cannot be attributed to climate change, events of this type in the future are expected to become more frequent with the onset of climate change.
  • About 22 million Americans and Mexicans live in low lying coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico, and are vulnerable to sea level rise and more intense hurricanes, both of which are expected to increase with climate change.
  • A significant portion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) is directed to activities potentially affected by climate risks, including climate change [see Figure 1].  Action to adapt to climate change can significantly limit the risk of negative impacts.  

Climate change presents great challenges to society by raising the risk of negative impacts on human society, the economy, and the Earth. The IPCC today released the Summary for Policy Makers of its Working Group II Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. The OECD welcomes this important study, which underscores the need for strengthened policy to limit the impacts of climate change. The OECD is working to support OECD countries in the use of adaptation policies to limit their vulnerability to climate change impacts, and to integrate adaptation considerations into their development co-operation activities. In parallel with adaptation, mitigation efforts must move ahead to avoid the worst damages over the long-term. 

A key message of the IPCC report is that urban populations, infrastructure and wetlands in coastal zones are likely to face significant damages from sea-level rise, storm surges and other extreme weather events. A forthcoming OECD report, Policy Frameworks for Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Zones, examines policies, strategies and legal provisions in place in the Gulf of Mexico -- stretching from Florida to Yucatan -- and how these might be adjusted to adapt to climate change. A recent OECD report, Climate Change in the European Alps, highlights impacts in the Alpine ski industry as temperatures rise, and outlines a range of adaptation options, some of which are already in use by many resort operators. While some adaptation is already occurring, more action is warranted and will become essential if the costs of climate change are to be limited.  A key challenge is to “climate-proof” development in particularly vulnerable areas. 

All countries need to adapt to climate change, however many developing countries are particularly vulnerable. Recognising this, OECD Environment and Development Ministers adopted in April 2006 an OECD “Declaration on Integrating Climate Change Adaptation in Development Co-operation”. OECD is working with countries on the co-ordination and sharing of good practices on integrating adaptation into development planning and assistance. OECD is examining the links between climate change, vulnerability, and development, and looking at opportunities to integrate climate change adaptation into sectoral, economic and development policies, as well as large-scale infrastructure investments in different geographic regions and countries. 

The OECD provides a knowledge-based forum for governments to assess and enhance understanding about the risks of climate change, and what to do about them. It is at the forefront of advancing information about the economics of climate change and policy solutions, including building a better understanding of the methods of estimating the impacts of climate change and the benefits of climate change policies. This includes work on methods to measure the impacts -- in both monetary and non-monetary terms -- of climate policy in the areas of sea-level rise and agriculture. New work will examine the benefits of action, or costs of inaction, in addressing climate change in specific regions.

For more information on the OECD’s work on climate change, see or contact the OECD’s Media Division at or tel. + 33 1 45 24 9700.

Figure 1. Annual official flows of ODA and share of activities potentially affected by climate change

Source: Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Linking Climate Change and Development (OECD, 2005)

Relevant OECD reports & publications:


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