Ecosystems © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon

Published on September 9th, 2011 | by Shaun Martin


Some of My Favorite Climate Change Adaptation Resources

By Shaun Martin, WWF-US

It can be challenging to find climate change adaptation resources that explain complex concepts to lay audiences in easy-to-understand language. Academic journal articles, project case studies, vulnerability assessments, and the like often speak to the experts rather than newcomers. Providing these types of documents to those new to the field is like asking them to watch a mystery movie one hour after it started – they might catch on eventually, but chances are they will leave the cinema confused and frustrated.

Thankfully there are a number of resources out there that are appropriate for those who are relatively new to adaptation. Here are a few that I have found particularly useful and always include in the bundle of pdf’s that I distribute to our workshop participants. All are available free of charge online.

Climate Change Information for Effective Adaptation: a Practitioner’s Manual by Dr. Juergen Kropp and Michael Scholze

We can’t all be climate scientists but this guide produced by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, formerly GTZ helps us understand what they are talking about. It was designed to show development practitioners and decision makers how to obtain climate change information, interpret it adequately, and communicate it responsibly. In a very non-intimidating, user-friendly format, Part I covers the basics – things such the Earth’s climate system, the difference between weather and climate, emission scenarios, and how future climate information is generated. I personally appreciate the brief but enlightening sections on global climate models and region climate models. Part II provides practical steps in finding, interpreting, and communicating climate information for adaptation purposes. It is by no means comprehensive, but a great starting point for those new to the field.

Climate change glossary at

In the field of climate change, everybody wants easily accessible definitions for the multitude of terms and acronyms that have mushroomed over the past 20 years. And while there has been no shortage of online dictionaries and glossaries that provide definitions for climate change terminology, I particularly like the one developed by REEEP (Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership) at its site I love this glossary because it not only provides definitions from various sources, but also creates a visualization of related terms to the word you want defined. Just type in a word or phrase like “climate change adaptation” and you will get two definitions (one from reegle and one from Wikipedia in this case), plus 11 related terms such as “adaptive capacity,” “NAPA,” and “climate compatible development.” Clicking on any of those will bring up their respective definitions and related terms. To date, the glossary defines more than 1500 terms, and while mostly focused on clean energy and mitigation, the developers promise to include more adaptation-related terms in the future.

Preparing for Climate Change: a Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments by the Center for Science in the Earth System (The Climate Impacts Group), Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, the University of Washington, and King County, Washington.

Many people are looking for a cookbook approach to adaptation, with all the ingredients and instructions to solve our problems laid out in easy recipes. Such a manual simply does not exist, but this is the closest thing I’ve found to it. While written for state and local governments in the United States, the approach to preparing for climate change outlined here could be adapted and apply to most situations anywhere. In its opening pages, the manual provides a list of key terms, a checklist for steps in preparing for climate change, well articulated arguments on why we must be proactive in adapting, and suggestions for moving beyond common barriers like, “I’ll deal with climate change when you can tell me exactly what I need to plan for.” (How many times have we heard that one?) The manual then walks through the steps involved in assessing vulnerability and incorporating what you learn into the planning process. What I really like is how thorough this manual is. Far from what we might envision as city planning (infrastructure, transportation, emergency response, etc.,) it encompasses areas that give conservationists reason for hope – forests, aquatic and coastal ecosystems, and even biodiversity.

The Psychology of Climate Change Communication by the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University

One of the key challenges we all face as climate change adaptation professionals is to effectively communicate what we know to a wide variety of audiences to influence their decisions and behavior. Climate change and adaptation pose unique challenges on a number of fronts – we must often talk to those who deny the existence of climate change, and to those who don’t understand it whether they believe it or not. We must deal with uncertainty while motivating people to prepare for the future. This guide offers very practical guidance on issues such as getting your audience’s attention, addressing scientific uncertainty, overusing emotional appeals, and making behavioral change easy. I find particularly useful the lists of troublesome terms and suggested substitutions for use with the general public. (“Positive feedback” usually means a self-reinforcing, vicious cycle to the scientist, but means “constructive criticism” to everyone else!) Check out page 27.

Feature Photo © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon

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About the Author

is the Managing Director of Climate Change Adaptation and Conservation Leadership at World Wildlife Fund. He oversees the management of programs that help develop and recognize leadership and build capacity for conservation. Shaun also heads WWF’s climate change adaptation team and designs and implements adaptation training for WWF staff and partners. Shaun has more than 20 years experience working with capacity building and leadership development in several positions.He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in international development from the University of Pittsburgh. He sits on the Board of Trustees for the School for Field Studies, serves on the boards of several conservation leadership programs, including the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program and TogetherGreen.

2 Responses to Some of My Favorite Climate Change Adaptation Resources

  1. Jerry says:

    Greetings Shaun MartinI I came across your blog page on Msn the other day and I am genuinely glad that I did!
    I really appreciate your posting style and material in which you deliver.
    I will bookmark your site for future reference!
    Thanks a ton Shaun Martin for Some of My Favorite Climate Change Adaptation Resources, a great blog post!

  2. Keith Henty says:

    Dear Shaun, Thank you for this information. I’m working with ClimateWise, a science-based consulting arm of the non-profit Geos Institute(based in Ashland, OR. These folks help communities plan and prepare for climate change impacts. (You may know staff members Dominick DellaSalla or Tonya Graham). If you know of an agency leader or community planner that might need localized climate change projection models or may be starting a process to involve local stakeholders in a climate adaptation strategy, I’d be grateful to get connected. More info:
    Keith Henty

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