Community resilience and the climate emergency

A composite image of an adult on a bicycle with two children on the back of the bike, pictured with flowers and green grass against a green and white background.
Published: 15/09/2023

As climate impacts become more frequent and intense, learning how to build community resilience to these new conditions is vital. This blog, by Aoife Hutton from Sniffer – the sustainability charity, was produced to inspire the communities involved in climate action. 

Taking action 

Climate adaptation is about taking action(s) to respond to, and prepare for, emerging hazards such as flooding, overheating, coastal erosion, drought, or extreme weather.

This could mean installing property-level flood protection, planting trees to provide shade in hotter summers, or putting systems in place to ensure all community members are supported during extreme weather.  

Cost of living in a climate crisis

At a time when communities across Scotland grapple with the challenges of the cost of living and cuts to services, responding to environmental crises can feel like an extra thing to do. But we must recognise that these issues are intrinsically linked. Climate hazards are disproportionately affecting those already most vulnerable, further exacerbating inequalities.  

Building community resilience 

Community-led actions can address climate hazards and also contribute to a deeper sense of community resilience, helping to create healthier, fairer and more thriving places across Scotland. In this vein, we developed the Community Climate Adaptation Routemap to provide practical guidance to adaptation action, while simultaneously addressing other issues: nature regeneration, improving housing & neighbourhoods, self-sufficiency, getting around & skills and employment. 

Two people hold a large image with a tree with information added to the branches.

Routemap for community climate adaptation

The Routemap was produced through the Adaptation Scotland programme, by environmental charity Sniffer, and in collaboration with Highlands and Islands Climate Hub, Development Trusts Association Scotland, North East Scotland Climate Action Network Climate Hub (NESCAN), and Scottish Communities Climate Action Network (SCCAN). It builds upon years of work to understand what climate change means locally and what actions can be taken. 

A routemap traditionally has a sense of direction – in this case, a vision for places that are flourishing in the future climate. Working with creative designer Savannah Vize, we soon realised the right format for this Routemap was not a map in a traditional sense, but a tree, with branches and roots. The roots show us there are many places to start the journey towards resilience. The branches hold a bounty of practical actions for communities.  

Three steps to action  

The Routemap has three stages: 

  1. Getting Started: This section explores key questions to consider when getting started, to understand where we are in this moment, place, and in relation to others. 
  2. Understanding climate impacts in your community: Accessible information on how Scotland is affected by climate change now and in the future, and signposting to tools for opening discussion. 
  3. Taking Action: At its core, the Routemap provides a directory of 20 adaptation actions, clustered by theme. Some actions can be described as the “lower hanging fruit”, such as obtaining sandbags, while others are longer term ambitions, like those we’ve seen pioneered by Scottish communities producing their own food or electricity. There are also important actions to make at the political level. Climate change isn’t simply a technical issue to be solved, to truly tackle it we need to tackle deeply-rooted structural inequalities – these might seem like abstract issues, but there are meaningful ways to address them at every scale.

Get your own Routemap 

The Community Climate Adaptation Routemap can be accessed online as an interactive pdf. A printable poster is also available for use in spaces or workshops. You can access this routemap here.

We invite Climate Action Towns and others to use this Routemap in ways that make sense for you. You can remix the Routemap, make different paths through it, or use it as a starting point to set off on your own path.  

Contact if you have any questions or feedback– we'd love to hear from you. 

About the author

Aoife Hutton is a Climate Resilience Manager at sustainability charity Sniffer. Aoife works with the public sector, businesses and communities to support responses to the climate crisis, with a focus on understanding climate risk and resilience.  

She was co-author to the Community Climate Adaptation Routemap, with colleague Iryna Zamuruieva

This blog was initially produced for the Climate Action Towns Gathering in May 2023. 

Image credit: Adaptation Scotland / Sniffer. Design by Savannah Vize.