Friday, August 23, 2019

Terms and Conditions

The science around addressing environmental changes in our built environment is brimming with terms, buzzwords and jargon.  In an attempt to help clarify how many of these terms interact, I sought a variety of resources and found some excellent examples.  The best are summarized in two diagrams, below.

A recent post, here, defines the term "Risk" and outlines a methodology for reducing it.  The elimination or minimization or risk is, of course, the sole purpose of this page.  Essentially:

Which begs the obvious question: If reduction of vulnerability is the key, how can that be done?  A series of definitions provided in a presentation by scholars Erica Hetzel and Erica Largen, titled "Planning Tools for Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience" helps shape a relationship between the various components as I've depicted here:

Furthermore, a diagram I've seen in a number of locations (most recently accessed online in a presentation from Harris County, TX) breaks down the Adaptation/Mitigation arrow further as:

A resource from Texas A&M University describes the two (Hazard Mitigtion and Climate Adaptation) as "mutually compatible." I'd add that they are, as shown above, two parts of the same positive activity, resulting in the same, comprehensive improvements for our communities.  The TAMU piece explains:

"Addressing the serious issues of coastal growth, with ever increasing populations in coastal hazard zones, automatically addresses issues of climate change and exacerbating coastal hazards. The same set of policy tools will be used....

"Preparing in advance for disasters, whether acute like Katrina, Ike and Sandy or chronic like sea level rise, is what mitigation for natural disasters is all about.  While necessary to protect “inevitable development,” structural mitigation, such as a levee or a seawall, has the deleterious side effect of making hazardous areas seem safer than they are. Non-structural mitigation, which involves first and foremost planning, is the preferred alternative of almost every knowledgeable hazard management specialist...."

The article makes the case that planning does make a difference. "The key," the author says, "is figuring out what mix of requirements and incentives are best, and what level of government is best suited to carry out on-the-ground plans. The policy mix that best addresses current coastal hazard management will also best address impacts associated with global climate change."


Definitions provided by Hetzel & Largen are copied here for reference:

Adaptation:  Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment that exploits beneficial opportunities or moderates negative effects.

Adaptive Capacity: The potential of a system to adjust to climate change, to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, and to cope with the consequences. A society’s ability is a function of its adaptive capacity.

Resilience:  A capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.

Mitigation: Intercepting the impacts of a hazard or climate change. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (climate change); weakening the effects (natural hazards)

Vulnerability: The degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. (Lessons from natural hazards and poverty)

Risk:  A combination of the magnitude of potential consequences of climate change impacts and the likelihood that these consequences will occur. Risk = hazard + exposure + vulnerability

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