Key Terms

Adaptive capacity: “The ability of systems, institutions, humans, and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences” of hazards.b
Climate hazard: In this tool, a climate hazard is a physical process or event (hydro-meteorological or oceanographic variables or phenomena) that can harm human health, livelihoods, or natural resources. (A hazard is not simply the potential for adverse effects).a
Exposure: “The presence of people, livelihoods, species or ecosystems, environmental services and resources, infrastructure, or economic, social, or cultural assets in places that could be adversely affected” by a hazard.b
Geophysical hazard: A geophysical hazard is a physical process or event that can harm human health, livelihoods, systems, or natural resources. (A hazard is not simply the potential for adverse effects).a
Potential impact: The possible effects on human or natural assets and systems as a result of exposure and sensitivity, either beneficial or harmful.
Risk: “The potential for consequences where something of human value (including humans themselves) is at stake and where the outcome is uncertain.” This tool defines risk as a combination of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. (It does not define risk as the product of the probability of hazardous events and the consequences of those events, a definition that is frequently used elsewhere.)
Sensitivity: “The degree to which a system or species is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate variability or change” or by geophysical hazards.b
a N. Brooks, “Vulnerability, risk and adaptation: Conceptual Framework,” Tyndall Centre Working Paper No. 38 (2003). (http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/sites/default/files/wp38.pdf.)
b Definitions adapted from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability -- Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Geneva: IPCC Secretariat, 2014). (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/)