As was seen in the first teaching climate geography course, energy moves into and out of the atmosphere and is also transformed across time and space. By farming, changing landscapes, industry and through urban and industrial centres, humans are influencing the ways in which the surface of the Earth and basic energy processes are changed and altered.


  • Distinguishing between the role of human activity as a cause of change
    and the role of the natural system driving climate change, and the
    interactions between these sources of change.
  • Explore different methods of learning that can be integrated into teaching energy resource use and change.
  • Explore different methods for assessing knowledge, understanding, and possible individual transformation around notions of energy resource use and change.

Related topics within the CAPS, showing relevant grades and terms

Key concepts and processes Grade Term
The role of people as actors in the climate system (population interactions; movement as a cause and consequence of climate change; climate change, population migration and greater pressure on resources) 10 3
Why some people use more of the global energy bundle than others; impacts of this 11 3
Hazards – droughts and floods; how the atmosphere responds to changes in energy flows 11 1
Resources and sustainability – energy use; conventional and non-conventional energy flows 11 4

Access to resources

It is more significant to explore critical issues like who makes up the rules that enable some to get access to more whereas others only have access to little. Thus, the focus of this section is on livelihood issues and developing capabilities to better utilize such resources. Some groups may be more vulnerable to gaining access to energy, food, and water not only because of climate stress but also because of changing food prices, difficulty to access fertilisers and other inputs; difficulty in accessing resources to grow food, etc.

Two concepts are very useful particularly when exploring issues of access, use of resources and how these actions can influence climate and climate change. Vulnerability and resilience are increasingly being used as concepts to help explain the drivers, impacts and outcomes of climate change.

Key Concepts

Vulnerability is a concept that is usually used when exploring notions of how robust or ‘weak’ a community or ecosystem may be in the face of climate stress or shock (e.g. flood or drought).

The term or concept is also used in the disaster risk reduction community and is also used in the wider adaptation to climate change field.

Some good local examples of urban and rural vulnerability and resilience include case studies related to the Limpopo Province for example.

In the climate change field, the practice has therefore been both to include climate as a biophysical DRIVER of change that can produce a range of impacts and to examine the CONTEXT in which climate change occurs.

It is important, for example, not only to understand the role of climate impacting a receiving community but also to understand what factors are making the receiving community STRONG or WEAK in the face of the threat or challenge. Such factors could include changing agricultural support (e.g. farm subsidies); poor urban planning design and infrastructure management – potholes in roads etc.; housing developments in poor land areas (e.g. wetlands or coastal zones) etc

The concept is linked to the ability to bounce back after a threat or shock. Can a community easily bounce back after a long drought or what is that may make them stronger to periods of rain shortages or floods?
Resilience is described as: “…the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks.” (Walker et al., 2004 cited in Folke et al., 2010, p. 20).

Way Forward for South Africa?

Watch the following video  “SA-TIED Phase II | Work stream 5: Food, energy, and water in a context of climate change”