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Investigating Climate Change Adaptation: Methods and Principles

This workshop introduces participants to basic principles of climate change adaptation. It provides guidance and tips on investigating exposure to climate impacts, vulnerabilities and coping capacities that participants can apply to their local context. Participants will gain awareness on the complex relationship between climate change, public policies and societal safety, as well as potential wrongdoing related to climate change adaptation.

Workshop Overview

Topic: Mindset, methods and tools to investigate climate change adaptation.


  • To introduce participants to basic principles of climate change adaptation.
  • To provide guidance and tips on investigating exposure to climate impacts, vulnerabilities and coping capacities that participants can apply to their local context.
  • To provide resources and data tools to investigate climate hazards and disasters.
  • To raise awareness on the complex relationship between climate change, public policies and societal safety, as well as potential wrongdoing related to climate change adaptation.

Learning outcomes:

  • Learn how to monitor climate hazards and the exposure of populations, buildings, cities, etc. to these hazards.
  • Identify ways to assess potential vulnerabilities to climate change, including the historical legacies and root causes of these vulnerabilities.
  • Apply context relevant methods and tools for investigating climate change adaptation.

General guidelines for trainers:

  • This workshop can be divided into 30-50 minute long sessions. Between sessions, trainers can add a short break or a quick energizer activity.
  • For small group activities, divide participants into groups of 3-5 people. Adapt the time you allocate to feedback and post-exercise discussions based on the number of workshop participants and size of groups/teams. You can also assign roles depending on the number of participants. Roles can include: Facilitator, Recorder/Note-taker, Timekeeper, Presenter, Artist (whenever a visual presentation is required.)
  • For online workshops, we recommend sharing a timer on the screen during energizers and small group activities.
  • Whenever possible, adapt the workshop examples to the context of your audience.

Mode of delivery: online / in-person workshops

Workshop duration (without breaks): 3 hours and 40 minutes (minimum)

Size of class: 8 to 24 participants

Related Exposing the Invisible article:

Workshop activities and templates, to download:

Learning Activities

Opening (15 minutes)

Workshop Introduction

Read Watch Listen | 5 minutes

Instructions for trainer

  • Grab attention if needed by posing a question or commenting on a relevant topic, image, etc.

  • Introduce yourself and the goals of the workshop.

  • Optional: Introduce the source of the workshop material (Tactical Tech.)

  • Inform participants of the workshop agenda.

  • Suggest ground rules for the workshop. Ask participants whether they would like to modify your suggestions or suggest other rules. Ensure that everybody understands and agrees with the ground rules. Specific suggestions about setting ground rules are available in the Facilitator's Guide, section on "Delivering the Workshops".

Participants' Introductions / Icebreaker

Produce | 10 minutes


  • Make a quick round of introductions by asking participants to answer a couple of questions about themselves, their work, their workshop expectations. In particular, ask participants if they are interested in focusing on one or several specific climate impacts and take note of the topics mentioned to refer to them during the workshop, if possible.

  • Note regarding expectations: make sure to specifically ask participants what they expect from the workshop; this allows you to make final adjustments on how to cover the content but also to clarify what will not be covered, and why.

In addition, if your time allows it, you can include one of the following brief questions / activities:

  • Ask each participant to pick one or two emotions from the “wheel of emotions” (see Annex: Emotion & Feeling Wheel - The Junto Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership), in order to describe their feelings towards this workshop topic. Start yourself and be honest and open, so as to encourage participants to be comfortable with sharing their feelings in the group.

  • Alternatively, you can pick an icebreaker exercise that encourages participants to get creative by drawing answers or ideas on an online whiteboard or, if offline, stand up and perform some tasks. Check the Icebreakers section in the Facilitator's Guide for inspiration.

Introduction to climate change adaptation (40 minutes)

Introduction to climate change adaptation

Discuss | 10 minutes


  • Ask participants to share the story of a climate disaster that happened in their region or country:

    • What happened?
    • How did they respond?
    • How did authorities respond?
    • What could have been done better?
  • Remind participants that they are also welcomed to pick an example not connected to their personal experience, or even step out of the exercise if they are uncomfortable with the question.

  • Take brief notes of the cases shared by participants. You might want to refer back to some of these examples later on during your presentations or discussions.

Introduction to climate change adaptation (40 minutes)

Introduction to climate change adaptation

Read Watch Listen | 10 minutes


  • shared files (if online)
  • sheets of paper and pens (if offline)


Prepare and give a presentation, using shared (or projected) slides, including:

Introduce the topic:

  • Emphasize the need to have a basic understanding of the natural (e.g. volcanic activity, variation in solar activity, etc.) and human-caused forces / factors (e.g. greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide or methane emissions from human activities, etc.) behind climate change.

  • Describe common resources for learning about the science and impacts of global warming (using examples from the list of "Further Resources" provided below). Ask participants to share additional resources by writing them in the chat (if online) or on a piece of paper (if offline), which will be placed in a common file / box and reviewed at the end of the workshop.

  • Define climate change adaptation – the process of adjusting to actual or expected effects of climate change to reduce harm or exploit opportunities.

  • Describe the relationship between adaptation and mitigation –adaptation is managing the unavoidable; mitigation is avoiding the unmanageable. .

  • No disaster is natural – a disaster happens when three factors meet:

    • Exposure to a hazard — such as a storm, a flood, a fire, a heatwave or an earthquake.
    • Local vulnerabilities — the physical, social, economic and environmental factors that make a specific context vulnerable to external shocks. In Brazil, for example, favelas, or historically neglected informal neighbourhoods, are often most impacted by landslides and flash floods, because they are built with low-quality material, on steep slopes and away from hospitals. Similarly, depending on their gender or religion, Bangladeshi farmers are more or less protected by local policies from climate extremes.
    • Coping capacities — the ability or inability to respond to and recover from the effects of stresses and external shocks.
  • Describe how vulnerabilities and coping capacities are shaped by decisions from a range of actors, including governments, municipalities and corporations. If relevant, illustrate this point using some of the examples shared earlier by participants.

  • Provide examples of past investigations looking into each of these three components and the relationship among them. For instance:

    • Exposure:

      • A video investigation from Le Monde (in french) explored how climate change did not necessarily increase the overall number of fires in the world, but did make them more intense and violent.
      • Following large floods in Germany in 2011, Euronews, the World Meteorological Organisation and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, among others, published analyses and investigative reports showing how climate change — by modifying precipitation, heat, and soil moisture in the country — had influenced the event.
    • Vulnerabilities:

      • A 2021 investigation from NPR unveiled how policy failures contributed to the doubling of North American workers dying from heat extremes (which are becoming more intense and frequent due to climate change) at their work place since the 1990s.
      • Similarly, The Kontinentalist analysed how unequal tree covers in Asian cities means that different parts of the population are more or less exposed to high temperatures.
      • This report from Human Right Watch (HRW) highlights how people with disabilities and older people are left more exposed to climate hazards, such as the 2021 European floods or the 2017 heatwave in Florida.
    • Coping capacities:


Starting points – Adaptation investigations

Discuss | 20 minutes



  • Divide participants into small groups (3-5 people per group) and recommend that each group assigns a note-taker and presenter/speaker for later.

  • Each group should take notes in a shared file, to present them to the others after their discussion.

[10 minutes]

  • Ask groups to discuss one or two examples of disasters that have made the headlines at any local/national/regional/global level in recent years. For each disaster, they should identify these components:

    • the hazard/exposure,
    • the existing vulnerabilities,
    • the lack of coping capacities that enabled the disaster.
  • Ask participants to also think about potential ideas/questions for investigating these disasters.

[10 minutes]

  • Once the time is up, a representative of each group takes 1 minute to briefly share their group's main discussion points with the others in the plenary room, including:

    • What disasters did they focus on?
    • What were their components (hazard/exposure, existing vulnerabilities, lack of coping capacities)?
    • How would they investigate them?

Investigating exposure to climate hazards (55 minutes)

Introduction to climate hazards

Read Watch Listen | 5 minutes


Prepare and give a presentation, using shared (or projected) slides, focusing on the following points:

  • Characteristics of climate hazards :

    • Extreme temperatures: heat waves, cold spells, etc.
    • Air quality and wind patterns: storms, air pollution, etc.
    • Precipitation and water: floods, landslides, droughts, wildfires, etc.
    • Biological risks: pest, illnesses, etc.
  • Mention that many of these hazards are being monitored and modelled on a near-real time basis by scientists and other experts.

  • Therefore, there are many sources of information for investigators to connect climate change to the realities on the ground. See, for example, these lists of climate monitoring systems in Europe, Africa or global.

  • These sources can also help us look at ways in which research and monitoring at expert levels can support or influence how political and administrative decisions are taken or how funds are channelled to different areas.

  • Investigating exposure to climate hazards then involves mapping out the ways in which climate change has modified current hazards, and how it will impact future ones – as well as how these hazards are likely to affect different societies, depending on their geography but also, as seen in the previous section, their socio-economic or political characteristics.

Data resources for investigating climate exposure

Investigate | 55 minutes


  • Investigating Climate Change Adaptation: Data Resources List provided in the Annex.
  • Internet connection, computers or mobile phones/tablets.
  • Break-out rooms (online) or separate tables / room areas (if offline).
  • Flip-charts and pencils (if offline).
  • Tool for making collaborative presentations or taking shared notes, such as a shared file/notepad, or whiteboard tools like Miro or Mural (if online).


  • Prepare in advance a slide or a large sheet of paper with the task guidelines and questions below.

  • Divide participants into groups of equal size, aiming for maximum 4-6 groups to minimise time spent on presentations. If offline, each group should have at least one device with internet connection available for their research.

  • Ask each group to start by assigning roles including Facilitator, Note-taker, Timekeeper, Presenter / Artist (if a visual presentation is needed.), etc.

  • Allocate one resource from the Data Resource list to each group.

    • The choice of resource will depend on participants' interest and background, as well as which hazards you decide to emphasise (e.g. fires, floods...)
    • Make sure to verify that the resource is still available at the provided link before the exercise.
    • Clearly define the scope of the resource to participants: should they explore an entire website, one webpage or a dataset of a website, etc.)?
    • If relevant, you can ask participants to use their resource on a specific case study, for example to investigate a recent disaster or answer a question related to climate change adaptation (for example: "Which European country is more exposed to floods?" / "Were their more fires in Brazil this year or last year?" etc.)

[20 minutes]

  • Ask each group to analyse the provided resource and prepare a brief presentation answering the following questions about their resource:

    • What information does the resource contain?
    • What type of data is it based on?
    • Where does the data come from? Who collects and provides it?
    • What is its geographical coverage?
    • Does the data require a certain level of expertise to use and understand?
    • Is it downloadable and does it allow further processing?
  • Participants should approach the presentation as an informal explanation of the tool, its' advantages and potential limitations, using plain language and visual supports such as screenshots of the tool, a list of key points, or a mindmap.

[20 minutes]

  • Following the task, each group takes 2 minutes to present their resource to the other participants.

  • Encourage others to ask questions.

  • NOTE: If there are too many groups, you can split the class into two (virtual or physical) rooms. Half of the tools will be presented in one room and the other half in the other room. In this case, make sure that there are enough co-trainers to facilitate each room in parallel and to take notes of the main findings to share with others.

[10 minutes]

  • Open the floor to all participants and provide the following questions for their consideration:

    • What could these resources be useful for?
    • When could they be used during an investigation?
    • For what purpose?
  • Encourage participants to comment on the potential use of each resource for investigating local exposure to climate change, as well as potential limitations or challenges of each resource.

This exercise also provides an opportunity to discuss the inherent biases and limitations of climate databases and online resources. Encourage participants to be critical and discuss the origins of the data, who is represented in it and who is not, as well as who funds that resource. These factors might influence the reliability of the data when using it in an investigation.

Investigating societal vulnerabilities to climate change (40 minutes)

Introduction to “vulnerability investigations”

Read Watch Listen | 10 minutes


Prepare and give a presentation, using shared (or projected) slides, including:

  • Define climate vulnerabilities – the (long-term, sometimes historical) factors making a specific context more or less resistant to climate hazards. The vulnerability of Haiti to climate disasters and food insecurity, for instance, stems among other things from colonial legacies, trade liberalisation and deforestation, according to a long-form article by The New Humanitarian.

  • Note that Investigations of climate vulnerabilities can explore the factors making a specific context more or less resistant to climate hazards. They also aim to explain the reasons behind this vulnerability.

  • Also note that climate vulnerabilities must be triggered by specific hazards, which are often fueled by anthropogenic (human generated / caused) emissions or other human driven factors.

  • Characteristics of climate vulnerabilities:

    • Historical vs. Emerging
    • Physical / Social / Economic / Environmental
    • Interdependent – while it can be helpful to separate vulnerabilities in different categories, in practice they are rarely totally independent from each other. During Hurricane Katrina, for example, economic vulnerabilities meant that low-income population could not afford to be housed in higher, less physically and environmentally vulnerable grounds, and were therefore more impacted when the levies breached.
  • Define climate resilience - introduce the term "climate resilience" (also included in the next activity) to illustrate the relationship with climate vulnerabilities:

    • Resilience in this context means the capacity of societies to cope with a hazardous climate event or trend by responding or reorganising in ways that maintain their essential function, identity and structure (see for reference this Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: "Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability")
    • Depending on your training context, you can also include some criticism of the concept of resilience. For example, a resilient autocratic / unfair society may "maintain their essential function, identity and structure" against the desire of its population, or even use climate change as a pretext for authoritative / unfair measures.
  • Provide examples of investigations and potential investigative questions for each climate characteristic, so as to make this section more practical and tangible (see No Disaster Is Natural: How investigating climate change adaptation could make a difference for examples).

Avenues for investigating climate vulnerabilities

Collaborate | 30 minutes


  • Breakout rooms online or separate room areas, tables if offline
  • Flip-charts and pencils (if offline)
  • A tool for making collaborative presentations / brainstorming, such as Miro or Mural (if online.)


[15 minutes] Group task

  • Divide participants into 4 groups of 2-6 (or depending on your overall group size).

  • Ask each group to discuss the following question and to illustrate their answers using images, memes, drawings, etc.:

    • Group 1 and 2: What would a climate-resilient community (city, village, industrial area, etc.) look like?
    • Group 3 and 4: What would a climate-vulnerable community look like?

[15 minutes] Debriefing and discussion

  • Once the groups' time is up, ask each group to present their answers to the other participants (2 minutes per group). If relevant, encourage participants to address / discuss the following questions:

    • What would a world with no climate vulnerabilities look like? Is that what we want?

    • Do we actually need some level of vulnerabilities? In what aspect?

    • Are climate vulnerabilities different from other vulnerabilities? How?

  • How can we reduce climate vulnerabilities? How can we get to the world we want? What can we, as investigators, do?

  • How about avoiding climate change altogether?

    • Climate vulnerabilities must be triggered by specific hazards, which are fuelled by anthropogenic (human generated / caused) emissions. Reducing emissions is therefore a way to adapt, prevent or 'slow down' some climate risk – this questions can also provide a transition to the next ("exposure") section.

Investigating capacities to cope with climate change (45 minutes)

Introduction to “coping capacities investigations”

Read Watch Listen | 10 minutes


Make a short presentation focusing on essential points:

  • Define coping capacities – our ability to withstand and recover from shocks.

  • Present the four disaster management phases and relevant investigation questions:

    • 1. Mitigation – Long-term measures to reduce the likelihood or consequence of climate disasters.

      • Are critical infrastructures (dams, bridges, electric grid, nuclear power plants, etc.) well maintained and prepared for future climate scenarios?
      • Are farmers adapting their techniques to climate change?
      • Are adequate systems and policies put in place to coordinate disaster management and climate change adaptation?
    • 2. Preparedness – Measures put in place before a disaster hits to help us better cope with it.

      • How many masks, radios, bandages, etc. are in stock?
      • Are shelters well located and ready to be used?
      • Have organizations prepared for climate impacts and have these plans been implemented?
      • Are early warning systems in place and functioning?
    • 3. Response – Measures which, implemented directly after a disasters, aim to save lives and limit the damage.

      • Is the response provided inefficient?
      • Are some people or groups left out or given preferential treatment?
      • Is the response generating conditions for a new disaster?
      • How is it impacting long-term physical, environmental, economic or social vulnerabilities?
    • 4. Rehabilitation – Long-term reconstruction and recovery efforts. When developed well, rehabilitation efforts can help mitigating the next disaster.

      • Are climate change scenarios and emerging risks taken into account when rebuilding?
      • Are procurement and reconstruction contracts awarded in a fair and transparent way?
      • Are we learning from previous disaster and building back better?

Provide examples of investigations and potential investigative questions for each phase, so as to make this section more practical and tangible (see No Disaster Is Natural: How investigating climate change adaptation could make a difference for some examples).

Investigating based on the four disaster management phases

Investigate | 40 minutes



[3 minutes] - Individual reflection

  • Ask participants to think individually about the following scenario (or a variation of it more relevant to participants' background / region / topic, etc.):

    • "You come across a book mentioning the terrible floods that destroyed half of your city 70 years ago – an event you had never heard of before. Intrigued, you start doing more research and talking to local climate experts. They confirm the historical floods and tell you that this type of event – which usually happens every 100 or so years – is likely to become more frequent and intense because of climate change. You decide to investigate whether your city is ready to face the next floods."

[20 minutes] - Team work

  • Divide participants into 4 groups of equal size to reflect the four phases: mitigation, preparedness, response, rehabilitation.

  • Allocate one phase of the disaster management to each group, and ask them to:

    • write down 3-5 measures that should be in place in their city, based on the given scenario, to mitigate / prepare for / respond to / recover from the floods.
  • Next to each measure, ask participants to list a potential way to investigate whether this measure is in place or not, how much funding has been allocated, whether it can have negative secondary consequences, etc.

[12 minutes] - Presentation

  • Once the time is up, ask each group to take 3 minutes to present their identified measures and how to investigate them to the rest of participants.

[5 minutes] Debriefing

  • Following the presentations, encourage participants to ask questions, comment and share their own experience.

  • Emphasize some of the key points that emerge from the presentations.

Closure (20 minutes)

Remember: key aspects to investigate

Read Watch Listen | 5 minutes


Make a brief final presentation/talk including:

  • Wrap up the workshop and sum up its contents, including main findings or aspects emerging from group exercises and discussions.

  • Mention that while investigating climate change adaptation can be done in a number of ways, an investigation that does not account for hazard exposure, vulnerabilities and coping capacities is likely to miss significant elements of the story.

  • Mention that these types of investigations can be done at different scales (municipality, region, country, etc.), as well as across borders.

  • Go over the chat or the 'resource box' and mention/discuss any additional tools or resources suggested by the participants. Collect the resources and share them with participants post-workshop.

Wrap-up Activity: Takeaway Poster

Produce | 5 minutes


  • Shared drawing pad / slide / whiteboard, such as Miro or Mural (online)
  • Whiteboard / flip-chart paper, post-its, markers (offline)


  • Ask participants to create a takeaway poster by sharing their answers to the following question in the shared whiteboard / drawing board:

    • What is your main takeaway from today's workshop?

    • Alternatively or in addition, depending on your group's context, you could ask: "What is the main topic/question you aim to research further after this workshop?"

  • Give participants a few minutes to write and/or draw their thoughts and read the thoughts of others.


  • Highlight some of the points on the board.

Read Watch Listen | 10 minutes

Tools/Materials: No materials needed.


  • Run a quick review of the session. Each participants should say:

    • one thing they found very good about the session.
    • one thing they would improve for the next time.
  • Encourage participants to ask questions or give some final tips

  • Share contact information if relevant and any follow-up details.

To keep participants informed about what is going on at all times, trainers can effectively sum up workshop contents following these steps:

    1. [in the introduction] tell participants what is going to happen;
    1. [during each part of the session / workshop] remind them what is happening;
    1. [at the end of the session/workshop] tell them what just happened. In addition, at the end, trainers need to make sure they point out which expectation have been addressed.

Further resources

General resources:

Research, articles and guides:

Collaborative Networks and Organisations

Contact Us

Please reach out to us at Exposing the Invisible if you:

  • have any questions about this workshop plan and facilitation guidelines,

  • use this workshop plan and want to share feedback and suggestions that can help to improve them,

  • adapt the workshop plan to a specific context and want to share the results with us,

  • want to suggest new activities, tips or examples that can be added to this workshop,

  • want to share your expertise and collaborate with us on developing and testing new workshops.

Contact: (GPG Key / fingerprint: BD30 C622 D030 FCF1 38EC C26D DD04 627E 1411 0C02).

Credits and Licensing

CC BY-SA 4.0

This content is produced by Tactical Tech's Exposing the Invisible project, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

  • Workshop author: Léopold Salzenstein

  • Instructional design: A. Hayder

  • Editorial and content: Christy Lange, Laura Ranca, Wael Eskandar

  • Graphic design: Yiorgos Bagakis

  • Website development: Laurent Dellere, Saqib Sohail

  • Project coordination and supervision: Christy Lange, Laura Ranca, Lieke Ploeger, Marek Tuszynski, Safa Ghnaim, Wael Eskandar

This resource has been developed as part of the Collaborative and Investigative Journalism Initiative (CIJI) co-funded by the European Commission under the Pilot Project: "Supporting investigative journalism and media freedom in the EU" (DG CONNECT).

This text reflects the author’s view and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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