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The Climate Change Spending Gap

A study finds huge disparities in how global megacities are investing in order to adapt.
French student Alienor Saguez rides a Velib bike-sharing program in Paris.
French student Alienor Saguez rides a Velib bike-sharing program in Paris.AP Photo/Francois Mori

Governments around the world spent $323 billion last year to adapt to climate change, and a large share of that went to battening down metropolises. But cities in wealthy countries spent exponentially more than those in the developing world, a new study published in Nature Climate Change finds. Wealth, more than human life, seems to be driving the adaptation economy.

Researchers at the University College of London and the British data research firm kMatrix Ltd. analyzed the amount that 10 megacities (defined as cities populated by more than three million people, or with a GDP ranking in the world’s top 25 cities, or both) spent on adaptation and resilience measures from 2014 to 2015. Measures included (but weren’t limited to) boosting professional and health services, new technology for risk modeling, stronger infrastructure, beefed-up drainage systems, and improved coastal defenses.