The term comes from a Latin word that means “to spring back.”  In physics, resilience is the ability of an elastic material (such as rubber) to absorb energy (such as from a blow) and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape.  Generally speaking, the term refers to the ability to recover from or adjust to change, including especially misfortune.  In the field of climate change, the term, or climate resilience, is now widely used to refer to the capacity to recover from the damages of the impacts of climate change (e.g., sea level rise and flooding) and to prepare for more or even worse impacts.  Resilience is like a form of adaptation to climate change.

For example, a community or government can build defenses against future flooding from sea level rise (e.g., sea walls or wetlands), but it also needs to be ready to adjust to higher sea rises than expected (have an emergency back-up plan or infrastructure) and to resume normal life as soon as possible.  Be ready and be prepared for the worse and get on with your life — be resilient.

Some further ideas to explore on Resilience:

What climate change risks exist in your community?  For example, is there a part of your community that is at risk in the future from severe flooding as result of climate change?

How can the community prepare for future climate change impacts that will likely occur, but may not or not to a certain extent?  For example, if there is a risk of flooding in the future, what protections should the community build for the next 30 years?  What if the prediction is that in 60 years the flooding will be, or likely can be, even worse.  Does your community build a defense to handle what will happen in 30 years or in 60 years?

Besides planning for the impacts from future flooding, what effects will such flooding have on the community’s economic resources and natural resources, and on the poorest people in the community?   What, if anything, needs to be done to make sure the community survives and prospers despite any flooding that likely will occur in 30 years, and 60 years.


“Resilience” in Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“resilient (adj.)’ in Online  Etymology Dictionary

Katerina Elias-Trostmann and Ayesha Dinshaw, “5 Emerging Trends in Climate Resilience,” World Resources Institute (24 May 2016).

“What does it mean to be climate resilient?” Climate Home News (Oct. 2014).




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