Activity/decision type

(In CCORAL) Involvement in a decision making process involving one of the following areas of national government intervention: a) national development planning, b) policy and strategy creation, c) national budget setting, d) legislation and regulation, and e) designing, approving and implementing programmes and projects.


See Climate adaptation

Adaptation benefits

The avoided damage cost of accrued benefits following the adoption and implementation of adaptation measures (IPCC, 2007)


Cost of planning, preparing for, facilitating and implementing adaptation measures, including transaction costs (IPCC, 2007)

Adaptive capacity

The ability of a system to adjust to climate change, to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences that cannot be avoided or reduced (IPCC, 2007).
The combination of the strengths, attributes, and resources available to an individual, community, society, or organisation that can be used to prepare for and undertake actions to reduce adverse impacts, moderate harm, or exploit beneficial opportunities (IPCC, 2012).

Baseline risk scenario

The expected series of events that are predicted to occur in the future, either negative or positive. (Adapted from Willows and Connell, 2003).

Capacity building

In the context of climate change, capacity building is developing the technical skills and institutional capabilities in developing countries and economies in transition to enable their participation in all aspects of adaptation to, mitigation of, and research on climate change, and in the implementation of the Kyoto Mechanisms, etc. (IPCC, 2007)

CARICOM The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is an organisation of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies. Its main purpose is to support its Member States to improve the quality of life of its people, to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy.

Climate adaptation


Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. (IPCC, 2007)
The process, or outcome of a process, that leads to reduction in harm or risk of harm, or realisation of benefits, associated with climate variability and change. (Willows and Connell, 2003).

Climate change

Climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use. (IPCC, 2007). 

Climate change impacts

The effects of climate change on natural and human systems. Depending on the consideration of adaptation, one can distinguish between potential impacts and residual impacts:

  • Potential impacts: all impacts that may occur given a projected change in climate, without considering adaptation.
  • Residual impacts: the impacts of climate change that would occur after adaptation. See also aggregate impacts, market impacts, and non-market impacts (IPCC, 2007).

Climate compatible development

Development that minimises the harm caused by climate impacts, while maximising the many human development opportunities presented by a low emissions, more resilient, future. Climate change and responses to it are changing patterns of innovation, trade, production, population distribution and risk in complex ways. This is creating a new development landscape for policy makers, who need to nurture and sustain economic growth and social development in the face of multiple threats and uncertainties while also cutting emissions or keeping them low (Mitchell and Maxwell, 2010)”.

Climate influenced

Decisions whose outcomes could be affected directly or indirectly by climate variability and climate change, but where climate variability and climate change are both included within a wider group of important factors. The degree of importance of climate variability and climate change may vary from negligible to moderate, in which case some climate adaptation may be appropriate. (Adapted from Willows and Connell, 2003).

Climate model

Computer simulations of the climate system that use numerical methods to better understand changes in climate due to increased concentration of greenhouse gases, feedback mechanisms, and interactions between land, water, biological systems and the atmosphere. These are typically found either in at the scale of Global Climate Models (GCM) or Regional Climate Models (RCMS). (Adapted from IPCC, 2007).

Climate variability

Variations in the mean state and other statistics (such as standard deviations, the occurrence of extremes, etc.) of the climate on all temporal and spatial scales beyond that of individual weather events (IPCC, 2007).
Departures from long-term averages or trends over seasons or a few years (CARICOM, 2003)

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)

The rigorous and consistent appraisal of the merits associated with each option by quantifying in monetary terms as many costs and benefits as possible, including items for which the market does not provide a satisfactory measure of value. (Willows and Connell, 2003).

Decision-making process

See Activity / decision-type

Disaster risk management (DRM)

The systematic process of using administrative decisions, organization, operational skills and capacities to implement policies, strategies and coping capacities of the society and communities to lessen the impacts of natural hazards and related environmental and technological disasters. This comprises all forms of activities, including structural and non-structural measures to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) adverse effects of hazards. (UNEP, 2008)

Disaster risk reduction (DRR)

The conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society, to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards, within the broad context of sustainable development. (UNEP, 2008)


The nature and degree to which a system is exposed to significant climatic variations.  Exposure is determined by the type, magnitude, timing and speed of climate events and variation to which a system is exposed (e.g. changing onset of the rainy season or minimum winter temperatures, floods, storms, heat waves). (World Bank, 2009).

‘Hard’ adaptation

Actions or responses to climate vulnerability that typically involve high costs or fixed actions. Capital goods, such as dams, sea walls, and other infrastructure are examples.  (World Bank, 2012).


A potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human activity/decision type that may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation. (UN/ISDR, 2004).

Impact assessment

The practice of identifying and evaluating, in monetary and/or non-monetary terms, the effects of climate change on natural and human systems. (Adapted from IPCC, 2007)

Implementation Plan

(In CCORAL) Refers to “Delivering Transformational Change 2011-2012: Implementing the CARICOM ‘Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change’, this was developed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and endorsed by the CARICOM Heads of Government in March 2012. Based on a comprehensive period of consultation, 12 priority challenges and actions were identified in the IP to ensure delivery of the Regional Framework. The Implementation Plan is available here.

Intervention points

(In CCORAL) Stages in a particular decision making process or activity where climate should be addressed.


A common concept referring to the chance of an event occurring which typically expressed as a probability of frequency. (Adapted from Willows and Connell, 2003).


Any changes in natural or human systems that inadvertently increase vulnerability to climatic stimuli; an adaptation that does not succeed in reducing vulnerability but increases it instead. Spending a disproportionate amount of effort and investment focussed upon adaptation beyond what is required (Adaptation Sub-Committee, 2010).


In the context of risk management, any action to reduce the probability and magnitude of unwanted consequences. Adaptation to climate change is a strategy undertaken to mitigate the risk associated with future changes in climate. However, in climate change policy, mitigation refers specifically to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which is an example of risk management (Adapted from Willows and Connell, 2003).

Multi-criteria analysis (MCA)

Describes any structured approach used to determine overall preferences among alternative options, where the options accomplish several objectives (Adapted from Willows and Connell, 2003).


Provides the connection between a particular hazard (e.g. storm-force winds) and the receptor (e.g. insurance company premiums) that may be ‘harmed’. The pathway may include the track of the storm, the location of domestic dwellings, nature of roofing materials, the level of consequent insurance claims (Willows and Connell, 2003).

Regional framework

(In CCORAL) ‘Climate Change and the Caribbean: A Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (2009-2015)’ was prepared and published in 2009 by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. The purpose of this document is to ‘establish direction for the continued building of resilience to the impacts of global climate change by CARICOM states’. The Regional Framework is available here.


The ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions (IPCC, 2012).

Resilience measures

Actions that enhance the ability of a system to withstand external shocks or/and support its effective recovery, as well as actions that reduce a system’s vulnerability to climate change and climate variability or mitigate external pressures eroding its resilience (Adapted from Carpenter et al. 2001, Adger 2000, Resilience Alliance).


Risk is a combination of the chance or probability of an event occurring, and the impact or consequences associated with that event. (Willows and Connell, 2003).

Risk assessment


A methodology to determine the nature and extent of risk by analysing potential hazards, evaluating existing conditions of vulnerability that could pose a potential threat or harm to people, property, livelihoods and the environment on which they depend,  assessing the likelihoods and severities of impacts, and assessing the significance of the risk [...]. (UN/ISDR, 2004 and Willows and Connell, 2003).

Risk management

The systematic application of policies, procedures and practices undertaken in order to analyse, evaluate, control and communicate about risks (CARICOM, 2003)

Residual risk

The risk that remains after all control and attenuation strategies have been applied (CARICOM, 2003)

Robust adaptation

Measures that allow a system to perform satisfactorily and remain resilient under both current and future climate conditions. (Adapted from Willows and Connell, 2003).


A coherent, internally consistent and plausible description of a possible future state of the world, usually based on specific assumptions. (Willows and Connell, 2003).


(In CCORAL) An area of an economy (e.g. agriculture, water, energy) or an environmental area or type (e.g. forestry, coastal regions).


The degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate variability or change. The effect may be direct (e.g. a change in crop yield in response to a change in the mean, range or variability of temperature) or indirect (e.g. damages caused by an increase in the frequency of coastal flooding due to sea level rise). (IPCC, 2007).

‘Soft’ adaptation

Actions or responses to climate vulnerability that do not involve high costs or fixed actions. Commonly focus on information, capacity building, policy and strategy development, and institutional arrangements. (World Bank, 2012).


(In CCORAL) Any persons who have an interest or investment in a particular decision, either as individuals or as representatives of a group; this includes those can influence or make a decision as well as those affected by it.


A property of a system or a response function, where the relationship between the input variable and an output or other variable changes suddenly. It can be important to identify thresholds, and other non-linear relationships, as these may indicate rapid changes in risk. (Willows and Connell, 2003).


Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity (IPCC, 2007)

Vulnerability assessment

Identifies who and what is exposed and sensitive to change. (Adapted from Tompkins et al., 2005 In Levina and Tirpak, 2006).


An expression of the degree to which a value (e.g., the future state of the climate system) is unknown. Uncertainty can result from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. It may have many types of sources, from quantifiable errors in the data to ambiguously defined concepts or terminology, or uncertain projections of human behaviour. Uncertainty can therefore be represented by quantitative measures, for example, a range of values calculated by various models, or by qualitative statements, for example, reflecting the judgement of a team of experts (IPCC, 2007)


The day to day state of the atmosphere in the short term, over a particular place, usually in regard to temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind, precipitation, etc. Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the "average weather". The US Environmental Protection Agency differentiates these by noting that, roughly, ‘climate’ is what you expect and ‘weather’ is what you get (Adapted from EPA, 2012).

Glossary references

Adaptation Sub-Committee. 2010. How well prepared is the UK for
  climate change? Committee on Climate Change Adaptation, London.
Adger, N. (2000).  Social and ecological resilience: are they related?
  Progress in Human Geography, Vol. 24, pp. 347-364.
CARICOM (2003). Caribbean Risk Management Guidelines for Climate
  Change Adaptation Decision Making.
CARICOM (2011) Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Online
  source available at: (last accessed on the 14/05/13).
Carpenter,S., B. Walker, J. M. Anderies, and N. Abel (2001). From
  metaphor to measurement: Resilience of what to what? Ecosystems  Vol. 4. pp.765-781.
EPA (2012) “Glossary of Climate Change Terms”. United States

Environmental Protection Agency.

IPCC (2007). Climate Change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.Parry, M. L., Canziani, O. F., Palutikof, J. P., Linden, P. J. v. d. & Hanson, C. E. (eds.). Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

IPCC (2012). Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to
  Advance Climate Change Adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. C.B. Field, et al. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA

Levina, E. and Tirpak, D. (2006). Adaptation to Climate Change: Key Terms, OECD/IEA, Paris.

Mitchell, T. and Maxwell, S. 2010. Defining Climate Compatible Development.
Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) Policy Brief.

Resilience Alliance: (last accessed 05/03/2013).

UNEP (2008). “Disaster Risk Management For Coastal Tourism
  Destinations Responding To Climate Change: A Practical Guide For Decision Makers.” United Nations Environment Programme. Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch.
UN/ISDR (Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy for
  Disaster Reduction) (2004). Living with Risk – A global review of disaster reduction initiatives
Willows, R.I. and Connell, R.K. (Eds.) (2003). Climate adaptation: Risk
  uncertainty and decision-making. UKCIP Technical Report, UKCIP, Oxford.
World Bank (2009) Chapter 1: A framework for developing Adaptation
  plans, in Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia’, World Bank report [available on-line]:
World Bank (2012). “Adaptation Guidance Notes - Key Words and

CCORAL Version: V 1.7 Last updated: 09/04/2014