About the glossary
There exist multiple definitions of climate change related-concepts and issues. Some of these definitions are quite loose, and inevitably could generate different interpretations, while others are context-specific; some are better suited to natural systems, while others to human systems; and so on.
For the purposes of the Guidance Notes, we have adopted, when possible, one of the existing definitions used in the Climate Change scientific and policy arenas (IPCC, UNDP, UK CIP, etc). However, where stated, definitions have been modified and adapted to better suit the notes' purposes and objectives in relation to development projects. Some definitions are followed by a note, in order to better explain the use of the term within the Guidance Notes.
Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects. Adaptation can be carried out in response to (ex post) or in anticipation of (ex ante) changes in climatic conditions. It entails a process by which measures and behaviors to prevent, moderate, cope with and take advantage of the consequences of climate events are planned, enhanced, developed and implemented (adapted from UNDP 2005, UKCIP 2003 and IPCC 2001).
- For the purpose of the Guidance Notes, the term adaptation refers only to "planned adaptation" measures.
- Some development practitioners include a wide range of activities under the term "adaptation" (i.e., natural resource management, improved access to markets, land tenure, etc.) that, although disconnected from climate risk issues, are considered to indirectly decrease vulnerability/increase adaptive capacity. For the purposes of the Guidance Notes, a measure is referred to as "adaptation" only when it is an explicit response to climate risk considerations.
- Adaptation benefits
Avoided damage costs or accrued benefits following the adoption and implementation of adaptation measures (IPCC 2007).
- Adaptation costs
Costs of planning, preparing for, facilitating and implementing adaptation measures, including transition costs (IPCC 2007).
- Adaptation deficit
Failure to adapt adequately to existing climate risks largely accounts for the adaptation deficit. Controlling and eliminating this deficit in the course of development is a necessary, but not sufficient, step in the longer-term project of adapting to climate change. Development decisions that do not properly consider current climate risks add to the costs and increase the deficit. As climate change accelerates, the adaptation deficit has the potential to rise much higher unless a serious adaptation program is implemented.
- Adaptive capacity
Ability of a human or natural system to: adapt, i.e., to adjust to climate change, including to climate variability and extremes; prevent or moderate potential damages; take advantage of opportunities; or cope with the consequences. The adaptive capacity inherent in a human system represents the set of resources available for adaptation (information, technology, economic resources, institutions and so on), as well as the ability or capacity of that system to use the resources effectively in pursuit of adaptation (adapted from UKCIP 2003 and UNDP 2005).
Note: For the purposes of the Guidance Notes and, in particular, when the focus is on human systems, the terms adaptive capacity and resilience are used interchangeably.
- Autonomous adaptation
Adaptation that does not constitute a conscious response to climatic stimuli, but rather is triggered by ecological changes in natural systems and by market or welfare changes in human systems. Also referred to as spontaneous adaptation (IPCC 2007).
- Carbon finance
Resources provided to projects generating (or expected to generate) greenhouse gas (or carbon) emission reductions in the form of the purchase of such emission reductions (World Bank).
- Climate risk
Denotes the result of the interaction of physically defined hazards with the properties of the exposed systems - i.e., their sensitivity or social vulnerability. Risk can also be considered as the combination of an event, its likelihood and its consequences - i.e., risk equals the probability of climate hazard multiplied by a given system's vulnerability (UNDP, APF 2005).
- Climate risk management (CRM)
Approach to climate-sensitive decision making that is increasingly seen as the way forward in dealing with climate variability and change and seeks to promote sustainable development by reducing the vulnerability associated with climate risk. CRM involves proactive 'no regret' strategies aimed at maximizing positive and minimizing negative outcomes for communities and societies in climate-sensitive areas such as agriculture, food security, water resources and health (please see definition of low-regret adaptation strategies below). The 'no regrets' aspect of CRM means taking climate-related decisions or actions that make sense in development terms, whether or not a specific climate threat actually materializes in the future (IRI: Climate risk management in Africa: Learning from practice, 2007; pg. 10).
- Climate variability
Denotes deviations of climate statistics over a given period of time, such as a specific month, season or year, from the long-term climate statistics relating to the corresponding calendar period. In this sense, climate variability is measured by those deviations, which are usually termed "anomalies" (NSIDC Arctic Climatology and Meteorology). As a result of climate change, climate variability is expected to increase in most locations.
In this note, suggests that members have some communal relations. Experiences, values and/or interests may be shared, and members may interact with each other and be concerned about mutual and collective well-being. However, this set of individuals may include diverse groups that can act collectively (organized community) or individually in order to increase climate resilience at the household level.
- Community-Driven Development (CDD)
Broadly defined, an approach that gives community groups and local governments control over planning decisions and investment resources. CDD empowers rural communities by allowing them to play a stronger role in the direct provision of basic services, and to hold government more accountable for its performance in assisting communities address their needs (World Bank).
- Coping capacity
The manner in which people and organizations use existing resources to achieve various beneficial ends during and immediately after unusual, abnormal and adverse conditions of a disaster event or process. The strengthening of coping capacities, together with preventive measures, is an important aspect of adaptation and usually builds resilience to withstand the effects of natural and other hazards (adapted from European Spatial Planning Observation Network).
- Global climate model (GCM)
Computer model designed to help understand and simulate global and regional climate, in particular the climatic response to changing concentrations of greenhouse gases. GCMs aim to include mathematical descriptions of important physical and chemical processes governing climate, including the role of the atmosphere, land, oceans and biological processes. The ability to simulate subregional climate is determined by the resolution of the model.
- "Hard" adaptation vs. "soft" adaptation
"Hard" adaptation measures usually imply the use of specific technologies and actions involving capital goods, such as dikes, seawalls and reinforced buildings, whereas "soft" adaptation measures focus on information, capacity building, policy and strategy development, and institutional arrangements.
- High-regret adaptation
Involves decisions on large-scale planning and investments with high irreversibility. In view of the considerable consequences at stake, the significant investment costs and the long-lived nature of the infrastructure, uncertainties in future climate projections play a crucial role when making decisions about whether to implement high-regret adaptation measures.
- Impact assessment (climate change)
The practice of identifying and evaluating, in monetary and/or non-monetary terms, the effects of climate change on natural and human systems (IPCC 2007).
- Impact evaluation
In the context of adaptation, assesses changes in adaptive capacity and resilience to climatic shocks of both natural and managed systems and human communities that can be attributed to a particular project, program or policy. The central question regarding impact evaluations is what would have happened to those receiving the intervention if the program had not been implemented. Impact evaluations are aimed at providing feedback to help improve the design of programs and policies. In addition to providing for improved accountability, they are a tool for dynamic learning, allowing policymakers to improve ongoing programs and, ultimately, to better allocate funds across programs.
- Low-regret adaptation
Low-regret adaptation options are those where moderate levels of investment increase the capacity to cope with future climate risks. Typically, these involve over-specifying components in new builds or refurbishment projects. For instance, installing larger diameter drains at the time of construction or refurbishment is likely to be a relatively low-cost option compared to having to increase specification at a later date due to increases in rainfall intensity.
- Mainstreaming adaptation
Refers to the integration of adaptation objectives, strategies, policies, measures or operations such that they became part of the national and regional development policies, processes and budgets at all levels and stages (UNDP 2005).
Note: In the Guidance Notes, mainstreaming adaptation is sometimes used interchangeably with adopting a climate risk management (CRM) approach. In reality, a slight difference exists between the two terms, as mainstreaming adaptation incorporates consideration of long-term effects of climate change, while CRM focuses on current climate variability and focuses on no-regret measures.
An action or process that increases vulnerability to climate change -related hazards. Maladaptive actions and processes often include planned development policies and measures that deliver short-term gains or economic benefits but lead to exacerbated vulnerability in the medium to long-term (UNDP).
- No-regret adaptation
Adaptation options (or measures) that would be justified under all plausible future scenarios, including the absence of manmade climate change (Eales et al., 2006).
- Planned adaptation
Adaptation that is the result of a deliberate policy decision, based on an awareness that conditions have changed or are about to change and that action is required to return to, maintain or achieve a desired state (IPCC 2007).
- Private adaptation
Adaptation that is initiated and implemented by individuals, households or private companies. Private adaptation is usually in the actor's rational self-interest (IPCC 2001).
- Public adaptation
Adaptation that is initiated and implemented by governments at all levels. Public adaptation is usually directed at collective needs (IPCC 2001).
- Rapid Social Assessment
One Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) method, which involves a series of qualitative multidisciplinary approaches to participatory learning about local-level conditions and local peoples' perspectives. While the pioneers of PRA development have been NGOs and agricultural research organizations, in recent years, the World Bank and other donors have begun to adopt PRA-type methods in their work. The term itself is misleading because more and more PRA methodologies are being used not only in rural areas and for project appraisal, but throughout the project cycle, as well as for analytical work. Some typical information collected in these rapid assessments relates to location, communication and transport, demographics, land use and status of natural resources, water resources, institutions, livelihoods, village infrastructure, production systems and markets and ongoing government programs.
- Regional climate model
While global climate models (GCMs) simulate the entire Earth with a relatively coarse spatial resolution (e.g., they can capture features with scales of a few hundred km or larger), regional climate models (RCMs) downscaled from GCMs have a much higher resolution (simulating features with scales as small as a few km). Downscaling can be accomplished through one of two techniques: 'dynamical' or 'statistical' downscaling. 'Dynamical' downscaling refers to the process of nesting high resolution RCMs within a global model, while 'statistical' downscaling relies on using statistical relationships between large-scale atmospheric variables and regional climate to generate projections of future regional climatic conditions (Padgham 2009).
- Resilience (to climate change)
When referring to natural systems, the amount of change a system can undergo without changing state. If referring to human systems, see adaptive capacity; (IPCC TAR 2001).
Note: When referring to human systems, the term "resilience" can be considered as a synonym of adaptive capacity (i.e., UN/ISDR 2004 defines it as the capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure. This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organizing itself to increase its capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures). For the purposes of the Guidance Notes, mainly focused on human systems, the two terms are often used interchangeably.
- Vulnerability to climate change
The degree to which systems affected by climate change are susceptible to and unable to cope with adverse impacts (adapted from UKCIP n.d.).
- "Win-win" options
"Win-win" options are measures that contribute to both climate change mitigation and adaptation and wider development objectives, e.g., business opportunities from energy efficiency measures, sustainable soil and water management, etc. That is, they constitute adaptation measures that would be justifiable even in the absence of climate change. For example, many measures that deal with climate variability (e.g., long-term weather forecasting and early warning systems) may fall into this category.