Climate Change Glossary
In this glossary you will find common climate change terms and their definitions as are pertinent to the climate change context presented in the NCCIS.
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Adaptive capacity refers to the varying characteristics that determine how a climate event is experienced. It refers to the ability of systems, institutions, humans, and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences (IPCC, 2014). The capacity to adapt is dependent on a region’s socio-economic and environmental situation as well as the availability of information and technology. Adaptive capacity can reflect the status of poverty, health, knowledge/education, and governance.
Climate refers to the average of individual weather conditions in an area, taken over sufficiently long periods of time.
Climate change refers to a change in the average weather experienced in a particular region or location. The change may occur over periods ranging from decades to millennia. It may affect one or more seasons (e.g. summer, winter or the whole year) and involve changes in one or more aspects of the weather, e.g. rainfall, temperature or winds. Its causes may be natural (e.g. due to periodic changes in the earth’s orbit, volcanoes and solar variability) or attributable to human activities, e.g. increasing emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, land use change and/or emissions of aerosols. Commonly, the term ‘climate change’ often refers to changes due to anthropogenic causes.
Climate variability refers to variations in climate on all spatial and temporal scales beyond that of individual weather events. This variability may be caused by natural internal processes within the climate system. One of the most important (and widely known) examples of natural climate variability is the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Variations may also be caused by external influences which may be due to naturally-occurring phenomena (such as periodic changes in the earth’s orbit around the sun).
Climate-Smart Disaster Risk Reduction
Climate-smart disaster risk reduction (CSDRM) has been borne out the need to integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. CSDRM is considered as the initial step to adapting to climate change and variability, providing policymakers with practical measures to allocate resources to reduce current and future risks at all levels (Mitchell et al. 2010; Davis-Reddy & Vincent 2018).
A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society due to a physical event resulting in widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses that require immediate emergency response. A disaster is a negative outcome brought about by high vulnerability (or low adaptive capacity) in the face of exposure to an often sudden event. It is for this reason that an event of similar magnitude in one place may translate into a disaster, but in another may not, depending on the capacity of the population to cope.
Disaster Risk Management
Disaster risk management (DRM) refers to the “integrated multisectoral and multidisciplinary administrative, organisational and operational planning processes and capacities aimed at lessening the impacts of natural hazards and related environmental, technological and biological disasters” (Republic of South Africa 2015). Disaster risk management includes all forms of activities to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse effects of hazards.
Disaster Risk Reduction
Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is defined as the process of “reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events” (UNIDSR, 2007). DRR includes all forms of activities to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse effects of hazards.
Droughts may refer to “meteorological drought (below average precipitation), hydrological drought (low river flows and water levels in rivers, lakes and groundwater), agricultural drought (low soil moisture), and environmental drought (a combination of the above)” (Stocker et al. 2013). In this report, drought refers to the extended period of unusually low precipitation that produces a shortage of water (CRED 2015).