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The University of Southampton
Public Policy|Southampton

Climate Resilience Programme

Professor Ian Townend
Professor Ian Townend

In my contribution to Climate Expo, I summarised one approach to measuring resilience that we have recently piloted in the UK.

Other speakers explained why we will need to adapt at the coast, and how adaptation pathways provide a useful means of planning a way forward. This has led to the advocacy of resilience as an extension of risk management. However, for the concept to be valid, it is necessary to quantify resilience in much the same way we quantify risk.

As part of the UK Climate Resilience Programme, we examined how an operational interpretation of resilience might be applied to the coast, building on existing approaches to management.

We set an overarching aim of 'Enhancing coastal resilience'. We then identified objectives and policy options that would support the delivery of this aim. In this context, the policy options provide the mechanisms to implement adaptation pathways and transitions. Importantly, maximising or minimising these contributions necessarily reflects resilience's social, economic, and environmental dimensions. Consequently, changes and interventions can be assessed in terms of how they affect the state of resilience. While some aspects of this characterisation can be measured directly (for example, annual damages), other aspects (such as community awareness) require the use of surrogate measures.

The performance measures are combined into a single metric – in our case, a resilience index. This requires two steps. First, the performance measures are converted to a standard scale to give a set of scores. Then the scores are adjusted by a set of weightings to reflect their relative importance. We used the weightings to capture different stakeholder perspectives, different stakeholders assign different weightings, and these combine to give different resilience measures. Combining these components, the data for the present day can be used to map the existing state of coastal resilience. Combining the measures involves applying the stakeholder weightings, the resultant maps reveal different perspectives. This is illustrated on the slide for stakeholders who weight in favour of social, economic or environmental issues.

These can be combined in many ways and offer the potential to explore different resource allocation models. This, of course, just provides a snapshot in time. We are interested in how the current state of resilience may change because of changing conditions and any made interventions. This requires projections, or scenarios, to define future climate, demographics, land use and so on. Similarly, adaptation options may be combined to define various pathways. Again, this results in changes in the performance measures over time.

These changes combine to measure how resilience may change over time, as shown in the graph, and how this varies in space and time, as illustrated by the 'Futures resilience' maps.

In summary:

For practitioners to adopt concepts such as resilience, they need practical tools that enable them to identify policy options and adaptation pathways that will help, and not hinder, progress towards the intended goal. The approach I have outlined looks promising but still needs further development.

Further information can be found at: 

Acknowledgements: The CoastalRes project was undertaken by University of Southampton, University College London, Middlesex University and the Channel Coastal Observatory as part of the UK Climate Resilience Programme.


Professor Ian Townend, Professor within Ocean and Earth Science and Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Southampton

Climate Resilience Programme Slide
Climate Resilience Programme Slide

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