Resilience is the ability of an individual, household, community, society or system to withstand, cope with and quickly recover from shocks and stresses. Shocks and stresses might include drought, floods and other natural hazards, as well as long-term changes in the climate and environmental degradation. They can result in shortage of resources and failed infrastructure and other situations that have the capacity to cause harm.
Understanding the concept of resilience is useful in addressing climate risk and unexpected events. Responses to climate change largely fall into two categories: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation involves trying to reduce the causes of climate change, such as reducing carbon emissions and protecting forests and wetlands which act as carbon sinks. Thus, mitigation strategies aim to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases (IPCC, 2001). In contrast, climate change adaptation involves addressing the effects of climate change by making communities more resilient. It involves adjustments in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic effects in order to moderate the harm they may cause (IPCC, 2007b). Plans for improving climate change resilience should include adaptation measures, mitigation actions and disaster risk reduction.
Choose a place you know or have read about that is threatened by climate change.
- What is the name of your place and where is it located?
- In what ways is it threatened?
- In what ways can it be made resilient?
You will have your own answer to these questions but in answering them you need to identify the threats to your place, and then consider what can be done to protect it. You might consider what local people could do, as well as what the government or others could do. Possibilities may have been extreme, like relocating people to safer areas; or more manageable such as improving people’s education about the risk and improving preparation for emergencies.
Individuals and communities with low resilience are vulnerable to shocks and stresses and have little ability to recover. Vulnerability means the degree to which individuals, communities or systems are susceptible and less able to cope with harm (IPCC, 2007b). On a wider level, you could think of resilience as the capability of the system or country to manage risks and reduce the occurrence of hazards and to adapt to change over the long term. The ability of a system to adapt to climate change and cope with its consequences is called the adaptive capacity of the system.