Oxfam Key Terms for Climate Change Adaptation

Submitted by Andrew Maclean | published 30th Mar 2011 | last updated 17th Mar 2020

Adaptive capacity The potential of individuals, communities, and societies to be actively involved in the processes of change, in order to minimise negative impacts and maximise any benefits from changes in the climate. Adaptive capacity therefore strengthens resilience and reduces vulnerability to a wide range of climate-related changes.

Climate change A change in climate that persists for decades or longer, arising from human activity that alters the composition of the atmosphere (i.e., greenhouse gas emissions).

Climate-compatible development Development that takes into account possible or predicted climate hazards and impacts, and is sustainable over time in light of these changes.

Climate variability Natural variations in the climate that are not caused by greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., it rains more in some years and less in others).

Climate change adaptation Actions that people and institutions make in anticipation of, or in response to, a changing climate. This includes changes to the things they do, and/or the way they do them.

Resilience Where adaptive capacity relates to the ability to influence and respond directly to processes of change (to shape, create or respond to change), resilience is the ability to absorb shocks or ride out changes.

Vulnerability The characteristics and circumstances of a community, system, or asset that makes it susceptible to the damaging effects of climate change and other hazards.

Mitigation Measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (note that the term ‘mitigation’ is used differently by DRR practitioners, who use it to mean reducing or limiting the adverse impact of hazards and related disasters).

Source: Introduction to Climate Change Adaptation: A Learning Companion. Oxfam Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Resources