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6.4 Glossary – Facing the Elements


ADAPTATION Adjustment in response to actual or expected climate and its impacts, in order to reduce harm or exploit benefits. There are various types of adaptation, including anticipatory, autonomous, and planned adaptation.121*
BARRIER Any obstacle to reaching an adaptation goal that can be overcome or attenuated through deliberate action.
BUSSINESS CASE Approach that puts a proposed investment decision into a strategic context and provides the information necessary to make an informed decision about whether to go ahead with the investment and in what form.122
CLIMATE CHANGE A significant and persistent change in an area’s average climate conditions or their extremes.123
CLIMATE CHANGE INFORMATION A catch-all term that includes databases of climate variables, both average and extreme, climate projections and their interpretation, climate change impacts and adaptation research, and analytical guidance and tools to assess business impacts, develop, and select response options.
CLIMATE PROJECTION The estimated response of the climate system to emissions or concentration scenarios of greenhouse gases and aerosols, or radiative forcing scenarios, often based on simulations by climate models. Because climate projections are based on assumptions concerning, for example, future socioeconomic and technological developments that may or may not be realized, outputs are subject to substantial uncertainty.124*
CLIMATE SYSTEM The climate system is defined by the dynamics and interactions of five major components: atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere (frozen systems), land surface and biosphere. Climate system dynamics are driven by natural (e.g., volcanic eruptions, solar variations) and human-induced modifications to the planetary energy balance (e.g. via anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and/or land-use changes).125
CODES, STANDARDS AND RELATED INSTRUMENTS (CSRIs) Institutions that help to “set the bar” in relation to the processes and materials that shape the quality of our physical infrastructure. Their primary objective has been to safeguard human safety and health throughout the full infrastructure lifecycle, constituting for society
one of the most basic mechanisms for risk management. As a lever for governments, CSRIs can fall into “command and control regulations.” That is, they are rules and restrictions specifying behaviours, courses of action, or performance requirements.126
CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE Physical and information-technology facilities, networks, services and assets that, if disrupted or destroyed, would have a serious impact on the health, safety, security or economic well-being of a population or the effective functioning of governments.127
DESIGN CRITERIA Criteria that (engineering) professionals should meet in designing infrastructures. Statistics pertaining to weather and climate events inform design criteria. These values include calculated return periods for extreme weather (such as intense rain, wind, snow, extreme cold, and freezing rain) of varying intensities and durations. Climate design values generally reflect historical conditions for a given geographical location, an approach that
is challenging in a changing climate.
ENTERPRISE RISK MANAGEMENT The discipline by which an organization assesses, controls, exploits, finances, and monitors risks from all sources for the purpose of increasing the organization’s short- and long-term value to its stakeholders.128
EXPOSURE The nature and degree to which a system is exposed to significant variations in climate conditions.129
FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY An obligation to act for the benefit of the person to whom one owes fiduciary duties, to the exclusion of any contrary interest.130*
GOVERNANCE The process whereby societies or organizations make decisions, including determining who has power, who makes decisions, how other players make their voice heard and how account is rendered.131*
HAZARD The potential for a negative interaction between an event (of a natural or technological origin) and the vulnerable parts of the population, an organization, or function within an organization. Three factors combine to create a hazard: the events that can impact on a community, organization, or function; the vulnerability to such impacts; and the resources to cope with those impacts.132*
IMPACT The effects of climate change on natural and human systems.133
INCENTIVE A mechanism to encourage or discourage certain types of behaviour. Incentives can include information, price signals, regulations, and financial rewards or penalties. Provision of or access to these incentives can be by design or unintentional.
ISSUER A public company that publicly issues securities.
MATERIALITY Information that would likely influence a reasonable investor’s decision whether or not to buy, sell, or hold securities in a company.134*
MITIGATION In the context of climate change, mitigation is an intervention intended to reduce adverse human influence on the climate system; it includes strategies to reduce greenhouse gas sources and emissions and enhance greenhouse gas sinks.135*
MORAL HAZARD A situation in which the expectation of insurance coverage or disaster relief reduces an individual or organization’s incentive to take precautions or make adjustments to reduce risk exposure.
OPPORTUNITY A risk with positive consequences.
RESILIENCE The ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the same capacity for self-organization and the same capacity to adapt to stress and change.136
RISK A combination of the likelihood (probability of occurrence) and the consequences of an event (e.g., climate-related hazard). In line with the multi-dimensional character of climate change, the framing of risk considers three questions: What can happen? How likely is it to happen? If it does happen, what are the consequences? Thus, risk from the impacts of climate change is an expectation that involves a threat or hazard (climate change as a source of or contributor to adverse or beneficial outcomes), outcomes (gains or losses), and uncertainty of occurrence and outcomes (the likelihood of the outcome actually materializing).
RISK MANAGEMENT A systematic approach to setting the best course of action under uncertainty, by applying management policies, procedures and practices to the tasks of analyzing, evaluating, controlling and communicating about risk issues.137
RISK TRANSFER MECHANISMS Mechanisms such as insurance and catastrophe bonds that distribute risk away from an individual or organization.
ROBUSTNESS Ability to cope with a broad range of events and changing circumstances.
SENSITIVITY The degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate change or variability. 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).138
SUPPLY CHAIN The cycle of products and services, beginning with design then moving through sourcing, production, distribution, sales and ending with consumption.
SYSTEMIC (RISK) The potential loss or damage to an entire system as contrasted with the loss to a single unit of that system. Systemic risks are exacerbated by interdependencies among the units often because of weak links in the system. These risks can be triggered by sudden events or built up over time with the impact often being large and possibly catastrophic.139
TECHNOLOGIES (FOR ADAPTION) Technologies that, when implemented or applied, work toward adaptation goals. They include “hard” forms (e.g., new irrigation systems or drought-resistant seeds) and “soft” forms (e.g., insurance schemes or planning processes), or they can be a combination of hard and soft (e.g., early warning systems that combine hard measuring devices with soft knowledge and skills that can raise awareness and stimulate appropriate action).140
TOOLS Methodologies, guidelines and processes that enable stakeholders to assess the implications of climate change impacts and relevant adaptation options in the context of their operating environment. Tools may occur in a variety of formats and have diverse applications: crosscutting or multidisciplinary (e.g., climate models, scenario-building methods, stakeholder analysis, decision-support tools, decision-analytical tools) to specific sectoral applications (e.g., crop or vegetation models, methods for coastal-zone vulnerability assessment).141
UNCERTAINLY 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.142
VULNERABILITY Degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse impacts of climate change, including climate variability and extremes.*

* Modified from source

[121] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007a

[122] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat 2009

[123] US Global Change Research Program 2009

[124] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007b; as cited in Lemmen et al. 2008b

[125] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007a

[126] National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy 2009

[127] National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy 2009

[128] Risk Management Committee 2003

[129] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001

[130] Richards 2006

[131] Institute on Governance 2011

[132] Health Canada 2008; adapted from Federal/Provincial/Territorial (F/P/T) Network on Emergency Preparedness and Response 2004

[133] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007a

[134] Ontario Securities Commission 2006

[135] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007a

[136] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007a

[137] Canadian Standards Association 1997; as cited in Lemmen et al. 2008b

[138] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007a

[139] Commercial Climate 2010

[140] Klein et al. 2006 as cited in Lemmen et al. 2008b

[141] Lemmen et al. 2008b

[142] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007a