Resilience to natural hazards: How useful is this concept?

Richard J T Klein*, Robert J. Nicholls, Frank Thomalla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

645 Citations (Scopus)


Resilience is widely seen as a desirable system property in environmental management. This paper explores the concept of resilience to natural hazards, using weather-related hazards in coastal megacities as an example. The paper draws on the wide literature on megacities, coastal hazards, hazard risk reduction strategies, and resilience within environmental management. Some analysts define resilience as a system attribute, whilst others use it as an umbrella concept for a range of system attributes deemed desirable. These umbrella concepts have not been made operational to support planning or management. It is recommended that resilience only be used in a restricted sense to describe specific system attributes concerning (i) the amount of disturbance a system can absorb and still remain within the same state or domain of attraction and (ii) the degree to which the system is capable of self-organisation. The concept of adaptive capacity, which has emerged in the context of climate change, can then be adopted as the umbrella concept, where resilience will be one factor influencing adaptive capacity. This improvement to conceptual clarity would foster much-needed communication between the natural hazards and the climate change communities and, more importantly, offers greater potential in application, especially when attempting to move away from disaster recovery to hazard prediction, disaster prevention, and preparedness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Hazards
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Adaptation
  • Adaptive capacity
  • Climate change
  • Coastal zones
  • Hazards
  • Megacities
  • Resilience
  • Risk
  • Vulnerability


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