Sea level rise and public health: Glossary of terms
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Accommodation approaches – adaptive strategies that are designed to allow continued use of areas at risk of climate impacts (e.g., food-prone areas) by improving the resilience of communities, facilities or infrastructure to occasional impacts (e.g., to flooding), or by limiting damage in these areas (e.g. raising structures, flood-proofing foundations, etc.).1
Adaptation – The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, to moderate or avoid harms or exploit beneficial opportunities.2
Adaptive capacity – The ability of individuals, communities, institutions or people to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences of climate change.2
Avoidance approaches – adaptive strategies that attempt to proactively prevent homes, communities, facilities, or infrastructure from being built in areas prone to climate impacts in the first place, by using measures such as planning restrictions, zoning, or transfer of development rights.1
Brackish – A transitional area that hosts a combination of fresh and sea water.
Eco-anxiety – distress caused by climate change where people become anxious about their future.3
Eco-paralysis – the inability to act on environmental challenges due to a perception that they are intractable, inhibiting people from taking effective action.4
Exposure – The presence of people; livelihoods; species or ecosystems; environmental functions, services, and resources; infrastructure; or economic, social, or cultural assets in places and settings that could be adversely affected.2
Hazard – The potential occurrence of a climate-related event or stress that may cause loss of life, injury, or other impacts, as well as damage and loss to property, infrastructure, livelihoods, service provision, ecosystems, and environmental resources.2
Health – A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.5
Impacts – The consequences of realized risks on natural and human systems, where risks result from the interactions of climate-related hazards (including extreme weather/climate events), exposure, and vulnerability.2
Protection approaches – adaptive strategies that involve the construction of engineered structures and systems (e.g. dykes, floodwalls, diversion structures, etc.) designed to protect homes, communities, critical facilities, and valued infrastructure from climate impacts.1
Psychoterratic syndromes – defined as earth-related mental illness where mental well-being is threatened by the severing of links between themselves and their home or territory.6
Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) – Possible future scenarios for human-caused Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission trends based on future emissions, deforestation, population growth and many other factors.7
- RCP 2.6: low global emission scenario, based on strong mitigation actions that indicate global warming levels of 0.9 to 2.3 °C by 2090.
- RCP 4.5: medium global emission scenario, based on mitigation measures that indicate average global warming levels of 1.7 to 3.2 °C by 2090.
- RCP 8.5: high global emission scenario that indicate average global warming levels of 3.2 to 5.4 °C by 2090. This scenario is often used as a default for planning because humans are currently on this “worst case” trajectory.
Retreat approaches – adaptive strategies to permanently relocate homes, communities, facilities, and infrastructure that are subject to repeated climate impacts to safer areas.1
Risk – The potential for adverse consequences for human or ecological systems. Risk results from the interaction of vulnerability, its exposure over time (to the hazard), as well as the (climate-related) hazard and the likelihood of its occurrence.2
Sea level rise – An elevation in sea level due to the increased volume of water in global oceans caused by melting of glaciers and sea ice and thermal expansion of sea water, resulting in increased risk of coastal flooding and inundation.8
Sensitivity – The degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate-related stimuli. 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., damage caused by an increase in the frequency of coastal flooding due to sea-level rise).9
Social determinants of health – include income and social protection; education; employment and job security; working life conditions; food security; housing, basic amenities and the environment; early childhood development; social inclusion and non-discrimination; lack of structural conflict; and access to affordable health services of decent quality.10
Solastalgia -- characterized by the distress that is produced by environmental change affecting people while they are still living in their home environment.6
Storm surge – the difference between expected (astronomical tides) and experienced water levels due to meteorological conditions. Strong onshore winds and low atmospheric pressure for example can cause positive storm surge resulting in higher water levels than expected.11
Vulnerability – The propensity or predisposition to be adversely affected. Vulnerability can be due to individual susceptibility, geographic location, socio-economic factors, and a wide range of other factors that determine an individual or community’s susceptibility to harm and ability to cope with an event.9
Commonly used acronyms
|CCAP||climate change adaptation plan|
|IPCC||Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change|
|RCP||Representative Concentration Pathway|
|SLR||sea level rise|
- Doberstein B, Fitzgibbons J, Mitchell C. Protect, accommodate, retreat or avoid (PARA): Canadian community options for flood disaster risk reduction and flood resilience. Nat Hazards. 2019 Aug;98(1):31-50. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-018-3529-z.
- Matthews J, Moller V, van Dieman R, Fuglestvedt J, Masson-Delmotte V, Méndez C, et al. Annex VII: Glossary. In: Masson-Delmotte V, Zhai P, Pirani A, Connors S, Pean C, Berger S, et al., editors. Climate change 2021: the physical science basis Contribution of Working Group I to the sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2021. p. 2215-56. Available from: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_AnnexVII.pdf.
- Coffey Y, Bhullar N, Durkin J, Islam MS, Usher K. Understanding eco-anxiety: a systematic scoping review of current literature and identified knowledge gaps. J Clim Change Health. 2021 Aug;3:100047. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joclim.2021.100047.
- Clayton S. Climate anxiety: psychological responses to climate change. J Anxiety Disord. 2020 Aug;74:102263. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102263.
- World Health Organization. Constitution of the World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 1948. Available from: https://www.who.int/about/governance/constitution.
- Albrecht G, Sartore G-M, Connor L, Higginbotham N, Freeman S, Kelly B, et al. Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change. Australas Psychiatry. 2007;15(Suppl 1):S95-8. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/10398560701701288.
- Canadian Centre for Climate Services. Scenarios and climate models. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada; 2018. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/climate-change/canadian-centre-climate-services/basics/scenario-models.html.
- Warren FJ, Lulham N, editors. Canada in a changing climate: national issues. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada; 2021. Available from: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/nrcan/files/pdf/National_Issues_Report_Final_EN.pdf.
- Berry P, Schnitter R, (eds). Health of Canadians in a changing climate: advancing our knowledge for action. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada; 2022 Feb. Available from: https://doi.org/10.4095/329522.
- World Health Organization. Social determinants of health. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 14]; Available from: https://www.who.int/health-topics/social-determinants-of-health#tab=tab_1.
- Lemmen D, Warren F, James T, Mercer Clarke C, eds. Canada’s marine coasts in a changing climate. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada; 2016. Available from: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/earthsciences/files/pdf/NRCAN_fullBook%20%20accessible.pdf
[Updated March 10, 2023]