Created by ASAP during the drafting of the Knowledge and Competencies Framework, the professional guidance resource glossary spans across all ASAP Professional Guidance Resources to provide a common set of definitions ASAP members can use when deciphering the resources themselves and using important adaptation-related terms in their work.

The ability of an individual, asset, or system to adjust to a hazard, take advantage of new opportunities, or cope with change.

Source: Adapted from  U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit Glossary

Use of the full range of scientific and cultural tools for gathering and analyzing information, including quantitative and qualitative methods, community knowledge, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, collaboration among disciplines and experts, and the informed co-production of knowledge.

Source: Adapted from ASAP Living Guide to the Principles of Climate Change Adaptation

The control and coordination of processes with the intention to orchestrate a transition to a preferred outcome for an individual, organization, or system. Transitioning to the preferred outcome may require or result in new system structure or function, new working arrangements, or new ways of operating.

Source: Adapted from

Changes in average weather conditions that persist over multiple decades or longer. Climate change encompasses both increases and decreases in temperature, as well as shifts in precipitation, changing risk of certain types of severe weather events, and changes to other features of the climate system.

Source: USGCRP

People who integrate consideration of future climate conditions in their day-to-day work

Source: ASAP

Effects on natural and human systems that result from hazards.

Source: Adapted from U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit Glossary

Processes that can reduce the amount and speed of future climate change by reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases or removing them from the atmosphere.

Source: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit Glossary

A condition or event produced or exacerbated by climate variability or change that may cause harm.

Source: ASAP

The capacity of an individual, group, or system to prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from a climate-related disruption.

Source: Adapted from U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit Glossary

Natural changes in climate that fall within the observed range of extremes for a particular region, as measured by temperature, precipitation, and frequency of events. Drivers of climate variability include the El Niño Southern Oscillation and other phenomena.

Source: USGCRP

An exercise in information gathering and analysis intended to improve understanding of a geographic target area and/or field of inquiry within a specific timeframe.

Source:  USAID

The knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitude needed to perform an essential job function.

Source: ASAP Professional Education Member Advisory Group

The level of magnitude of a system process at which sudden, rapid, or irreversible change occurs.

Source: Adapted from

The awareness, knowledge, attitude and skills to understand, communicate with and positively interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one's own.

Source: Adapted from American Psychological Association


The process of purposely choosing one course of action from a set of alternatives to advance personal or organizational goals.

Re-apportioning or redistributing resources so individuals can access opportunities.

Source: Adapted from the Avarna Group

The knowledge required as part of gaining a competency (see “core competency”)

Source: ASAP

Placing, organizing, or structuring information within a field of meaning in order to influence the choices people make about how to process and use that information.

Source: Adapted from Davie

The process of inventorying and auditing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Source: ASAP

Equal access to rights, resources, and opportunities. Achieving justice involves dismantling systems of oppression and privilege that create systemic disadvantages and barriers for certain individuals and groups.

Source: Adapted from the Avarna Group

People from different departments, backgrounds, or disciplines joining efforts to learn something new.

Source: Van Amstel

Integrating climate change into existing planning and decision-making processes.

Source: ASAP


A strategy for addressing complex, interdisciplinary issues which calls for framing research questions and research processes with the aim of solving specific problems.

Source: Adapted from Kueffer et al

The ability to cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Psychological resilience exists when the person uses mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors.

Source: DeTerte and Stephens and Robertson et al

The potential for consequences where something of value is at stake and where the outcome is uncertain. Risk is often evaluated as the probability of a hazard occurring multiplied by the consequence that would result if it did occur.

Source: Adapted from IPCC

Creation of storylines that explore plausible future states of the world or alternate states of a system.

Source: UN Environment Program

An ability or capacity, stemming from knowledge, practice or aptitude, to do something well.

A holistic approach to analysis requiring the capacity to solve problems at a complex, systems-level scale, where many interrelated and interdependent parts interact within the whole system.  Systems thinking requires the ability to understand system structure, recognize interconnections, identify feedback loops, understand non-linear relationships and adjust to dynamic conditions and behavior.

Source: Adapted from Arnold and Wade

Irreversible, persistent adjustment in societal values, outlooks and behaviours of sufficient width and depth to alter any preceding situation. A structural change that alters the interplay of institutional, cultural, technological, economic and ecological dimensions of a given system.

Source: UN Environment Program

The propensity or predisposition of individuals, assets, or systems to be adversely affected by hazards. Vulnerability encompasses exposure, sensitivity, potential impacts, and adaptive capacity.

Source: .S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

The use of climate-related shocks to trigger latent adaptive capacities which lead to systemic improvement.

Source: Adapted from McSweeney and Coomes