Glossary

Adaptation
Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment, including anticipatory and reactive adaptation, private and public adaptation, and autonomous and planned adaptation (UNEP 2012).

Adaptive capacity
The ability of a system [human or natural] to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences (IPCC 2014a).

Agro-ecosystem
Agro-ecosystems are ecosystems in which humans have exercised a deliberate selectivity on the composition of living organisms. Agro-ecosystems are distinct from unmanaged ecosystems as they are intentionally altered, and often intensively managed, for the purposes of providing food, fibre and other products; hence they inherently have human community, economic and environmental-ecological dimensions (FAO 2008).

Climate
Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the average weather, or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years (IPCC 2014a).

Climate change
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 2014a).

Climate variability
Variations in the mean state and other statistics (such as standard deviations, the occurrence of extremes, etc.) of the climate on all spatial and temporal scales beyond that of individual weather events. Variability may be due to natural internal processes within the climate system (internal variability), or to variations in natural or anthropogenic external forcing (external variability) (IPCC 2014a).

Ecosystem
A dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment, interacting as a functional unit (UNEP 2012).

Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA)
The use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change (CBD 2009).

Exposure
The presence of people, livelihoods, species or ecosystems, environmental functions, services, and resources, infrastructure, or economic, social, or cultural assets in places and settings that could be adversely affected (IPCC 2014a).

Global warming potential (GWP)
An index, based upon radiative properties of well mixed greenhouse gases, measuring the radiative forcing of a unit mass of a given well mixed greenhouse gas in today’s atmosphere integrated over a chosen time horizon, relative to that of carbon dioxide. The GWP represents the combined effect of the differing times these gases remain in the atmosphere and their relative effectiveness in absorbing outgoing thermal infrared radiation. By convention, the GWP of CO2 is 1 (IPCC 2014a).

Greenhouse effect
A process by which thermal radiation from a planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface and the lower atmosphere, it results in an elevation of the average surface temperature above what it would be in the absence of the gases (UNEP 2012).

Hazard
The potential occurrence of a natural or human-induced physical event or trend or physical impact that may cause loss of life, injury, or other health impacts, as well as damage and loss to property, infrastructure, livelihoods, service provision, ecosystems, and environmental resources (IPCC 2014a).

Impact (climate change)
The effects of climate change on natural and human systems (IPCC 2014a).

IPCC SRES scenarios
Six future-emission scenarios based on four scenario families, A1, A2, B1 and B2, where A represents globalized development, B represents regionalized development, while 1 refers to economic growth and 2 refers to environmental stewardship (UNEP 2012).

Mainstreaming (adaptation)
The integration of adaptation objectives, strategies, policies, measures or operations such that they become part of the national and regional development policies, processes and budgets at all levels and stages (UNEP 2010).

Mitigation (climate change)
The implementation of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance sinks (IPCC 2014a).

Resilience
The capacity of social, economic, and environmental systems to cope with a hazardous event or trend or disturbance, responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain their essential function, identity, and structure, while also maintaining the capacity for adaptation, learning, and transformation (IPCC 2014a).

Sensitivity
Sensitivity is the degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate variability or climate 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 2014a).

Vulnerability
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).