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Preparing for a Changing Climate: Second Consultation to Inform Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Framework



Climate change has a specialist vocabulary and definitions can vary from one organisation to another. For the avoidance of doubt, the Scottish Government has used the following definitions, set by internationally respected organisations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Some of these definitions are quite technical and efforts have been made to explain the terms in accessible language in the main document.

Adaptive capacity (in relation to climate change impacts)

The ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate change variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.

Climate change 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. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished, including anticipatory, autonomous and planned adaptation:

Anticipatory adaptation - Adaptation that takes place before impacts of climate change are observed. Also referred to as proactive adaptation.

Autonomous adaptation - adaptation that does not constitute a conscious response to climatic stimuli but is triggered by ecological changes in natural systems and by market or welfare changes in human systems. Also referred to as spontaneous adaptation.

Planned adaptation - Adaptation that is the result of a deliberate policy decision, based on an awareness that conditions have changed or are about to change and that actions is required to return to, maintain or achieve a desired state.

Ecosystem services

The wide range of benefits that a healthy natural environment provides for people, either directly or indirectly. These include basic necessities such as clean air, water and food, natural processes such as climate and flood regulation, and benefits that improve quality of life such as recreational opportunities and visual beauty.

Emergency responders

Individuals that are likely to be at the core of the response to most emergencies or involved in the heart of multi-agency planning work, but will be heavily involved in preparing for incidents affecting their sectors. [Definition based on Category 1 responder and Category 2 responder as defined in the Preparing Scotland guidance].


The extent and nature of changes in climate which systems face.

Integrated Emergency Management

An approach to preventing and managing emergencies which entails key activities - assessment, prevention, preparation, response and recovery. IEM is geared to the idea of building greater overall resilience in the face of a broad range of disruptive challenges. It requires a coherent multi-agency effort.


An intervention to reduce the anthropogenic forcing in the climate system; it includes strategies to reduce greenhouse gas sources and emission and enhancing greenhouse gas sinks.


The ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self-organisation, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change.


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.