Glossaries of climate science and adaptation terms

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 25th Jan 2022

Climate Adaptation Training Annotation

  • Level: Introductory
  • Time commitment: 1-2 hours 
  • Learning product: Definitions 
  • Sector: Multi-sector 
  • Language: English 
  • Certificate available: No 
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Working on climate change adaptation requires understanding of a broad range of key concepts in a field of knowledge and practice that is in continuous development. The breadth, focus and meaning of some of the special terms associated to climate change adaptation can differ between organisations and policy processes and can evolve reflecting progress in science. Some terms included in consecutive Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports even differ in their definitions in the respective glossaries.

Rather than reproduce the definitions this page provides links to the most recent IPCC glossaries. The PLACARD Connectivity Hub also provides definitions and scope notes for terms commonly used in the climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction communities and explains the divergence in uses of terms.


IPCC SR 1.5ºC 

IPCC Special Report 2018: Impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty



Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability



Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.


Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2012: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation

EEA glossary

On-line glossary of environmental terms used by the European Environment Agency