* Online tool ranks nations' climate change vulnerability
* Denmark tops rankings; Central African Republic lowest
* U.S., Canada, Chile, most of Europe in top 20
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Sept 14 Kyrgyzstan and some other parts of the former Soviet Union could have investment potential as they adapt to a warming world, according to a ranking of 161 countries released on Wednesday.
The Global Adaptation Index, or GaIn, was put together by international policy makers, economists and scientists to gauge which countries need the most help but also which have the greatest possibility of adapting to climate change.
At gain.globalai.org, the database ranks each country's vulnerability to the effects of a warming climate -- access to water, food, healthcare and adequate infrastructure -- and its economic, social and governmental readiness to adapt.
In general, wealthier countries were ranked best prepared for and least vulnerable to such climate-linked problems as floods, droughts and hurricanes, with Denmark at the top. Some of the poorest countries ranked lowest, with Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Chad and Ethiopia at the bottom.
Kyrgyzstan is not as vulnerable as other countries with similarly low per capita GDP, according to Ian Noble, a veteran of the World Bank and chief scientist at the Global Adaptation Institute's council of scientific advisers.
But with its relatively low personal income levels it will need outside investment in areas such as food supply.
"You have to be a little cautious," Noble said in a telephone interview. "I wouldn't say Kyrgyzstan was ripe with investment opportunities, certainly not. But the point is, Kyrgyzstan is doing something different compared to other countries with low GDP."
Well-prepared, least-vulnerable countries aren't necessarily the best place to invest, he said.
"You don't invest in someplace where almost everything's been done -- the Denmarks and Germanys and the U.S.," Noble said.
"You also don't go down to the Central African Republics and Chads because that's the business of the World Bank and the development agencies. You want to go somewhere in the sweet spot in the middle."
Denmark was ranked least vulnerable to climate-linked problems, and Switzerland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand rounded out the top five.
The United States ranked eighth, and the top 20 included most of Europe and Canada, with Chile in the Number 20 spot.
China ranked 96th and India was 117th. (Editing by Vicki Allen)