Climate change has lots of terms that may be unfamiliar. We’ve compiled this list of common terms that will hopefully help you understand.
Overview of commonly used terms
Adaptation - Action that helps cope with the effects of climate change – e.g., constructing barriers to protect against rising sea levels.
Afforestation - Planting new forests on land that previously has not contained forests.
Anthropogenic Greenhouse Emissions - Greenhouse-gas emissions caused by human activities as opposed to natural processes.
Atmospheric Aerosols - Tiny particles in the atmosphere that reflect sunlight back to space that generally have a cooling effect on the planet and can mask global warming.
Biofuels – A fuel derived from renewable, organic sources, including crops such as sugar cane, and some forms of waste. They are renewable as long as the vegetation producing them is maintained or replanted as these capture carbon from the atmosphere.
Capacity Building – Helping developing countries develop technical skills and institutional capability to enable them to address the causes and consequences of climate change.
Carbon Capture and Storage - The process of trapping carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels or other process and storing it to ensure it does not affect the atmosphere.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - Carbon dioxide is a gas in the Earth's atmosphere. It occurs naturally, though is also produced by anthropogenic activity such as by burning fossil fuels.
Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) – A measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based upon their potential to cause global warming.
Carbon Footprint - The amount of carbon emitted by an individual, organisation, product, service, or place in a given period of time, expressed as CO2e.
Carbon Market – The trading system through which countries buy or sell units of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon credits) to meet their national limits on emissions.
Carbon Neutral - A process where there is no net release of CO2 which occurs when the amount of carbon emitted is equal to the amount of carbon captured. This occurs in growing biomass, which takes carbon out of the atmosphere, whilst burning it releases carbon again.
Carbon Offsetting – Compensating for carbon emissions through sequestration methods or funding sequestration methods elsewhere. It usually involves paying another party elsewhere to reduce emissions equivalent to ones produced by your activity. For example, offsetting the carbon emissions of flying with a forest creation initiative.
Carbon Sequestration - The process of storing carbon dioxide. It refers to natural processes such as growing trees and plants or capture and storage by industry.
Carbon Sink - Any activity that removes carbon from the atmosphere. This includes oceans, forests, and peatlands.
CFCs - The short name for chlorofluorocarbons which are potent greenhouse gases that have contributed to stratospheric ozone depletion.
Climate - The long-term weather pattern in an area, typically averaged over 30 years.
Climate change – A change in global or regional climate patterns, measured by average temperature and rainfall, or alteration in frequency of extreme weather conditions. From the mid to late 20th century onwards, climate change can be attributed to the increased production of atmospheric CO2 from human activities such as burning fossil fuels.
COP - Conference of the Parties. A yearly summit attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At these summits negotiations are undertaken to combat climate change and stabilise levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
Deforestation - The permanent removal of forested areas which can cause significant levels of carbon dioxide emissions.
Degraded Peatland – When peatland ecosystems are degraded by drainage, fire, or other pressures, there is erosion of peat soil. Dried out peat results in vegetation decomposing much faster and releases carbon, becoming a significant source of carbon emissions.
Fossil fuels - Natural resources formed underground over millions of years from the remains of dead plant and animal matter. These are then extracted by humans through mining and drilling, and are burned to release energy for usage, which releases CO2. The main fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas.
G20 - An international forum, made up of 19 countries and the European Union, representing the world's major developed and emerging economies.
G77 - The main negotiating coalition for developing countries, allied with China (G77+China). The G77 comprises 134 countries, and helps to promote its members economic interests, and a superior collaborative negotiating capacity in the United Nations.
Global Average Temperature - The mean surface temperature of the Earth. This is measured through satellites, surface temperature observation stations, and ocean surface temperature measurements taken by ships and buoys.
Global Energy Budget - The balance between the Earth's incoming energy from the sun and outgoing energy that flows back to space.
Global Warming - The steady rise in global average temperature in recent decades caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) - Gases that trap heat from the Earth and warm the surface. Examples include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride.
Greenhouse Effect - The process by which solar radiation is absorbed and re-emitted in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. This re-emitted radiation prevents heat escaping and warms the Earth’s atmosphere.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – A scientific body established by the UN Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organisation. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific and technical climate change works and produces assessment reports that provide credible up-to-date information on climate change.
Just Transition – This seeks to ensure the substantial benefits of a green low carbon economy transition are shared widely and support those who stand to lose economically.
Kyoto Protocol – An international agreement linked to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sets binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by industrialized countries.
Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) – A greenhouse gas inventory sector that covers reducing emissions (e.g. limiting deforestation) and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (e.g. planting trees).
Methane - Methane is a greenhouse gas and it can be sourced naturally in wetlands or wildfires, and from human activity in agriculture or waste dumps. Over a 20-year period, it is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.
Mitigation Action – Actions to reduce anthropogenic climate change, through reducing greenhouse gas emissions or absorbing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) - Non-binding national plans highlighting climate actions to be undertaken by each country under the Paris Agreement.
Net Zero - The balance reached when the amount of carbon added to the atmosphere equals the amount removed.
Net Negative – This occurs when more carbon is removed from the atmosphere than emitted.
Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) – Organisations outwith a government structure, including environmental groups, research institutions, business groups, and associations of urban and local governments. Many NGOs attend climate talks as observers.
Ocean Acidification - The increasing acidity of the ocean through absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The main cause is the burning of fossil fuels. When CO2 dissolves in seawater, carbonic acid is formed which decreases the ability of marine organisms to build their shells and skeletal structures and destroys coral reefs.
Paris Agreement – A legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by 196 Parties in 2015. Its goal is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
Per-capita Emissions - The total amount of greenhouse gas emitted by a country per unit of population.
Perth and Kinross Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan – This sets out how Perth and Kinross Council plans to reach its net zero carbon targets. There are eight main sectors where we can take action to reduce GHG emissions including Transport, Land Use, Energy & Buildings, Waste, Business & Industry, Resilience, Education and Engagement, and Governance. Through this strategy, we can act at a local level to help communities fight climate change and build resilience to climate impacts, creating a more sustainable future.
Pre-industrial Levels of Carbon Dioxide - The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution. These levels are estimated to be about 280 parts per million (by volume). The current level is around 380ppm.
Resilience - Climate resilience relates to the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to climate induced events – both acute events and longer-term trends.
Renewable Energy - energy created from sources that can be replenished in a short period of time. Examples include biomass, solar, wind, geothermal, and the movement of water.
Reforestation - Replanting of forests on lands that have previously contained forests.
Sustainable Development - Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Scope 1 Emissions – Direct emissions from owned or controlled sources (natural gas, kerosene oil, gas oil, biomass woodchips)
Scope 2 Emissions – Indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the Council (grid electricity generation and transmission)
Scope 3 Emissions – All indirect emissions in the Council value and supply chain (municipal and commercial waste recycling and disposal, water supply and treatment).
Tipping Point - A threshold for change, which, when reached, results in a process that is difficult to reverse.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - One of a series of international agreements on global environmental issues adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It seeks to prevent climate change.
Weather - The state of the atmosphere regarding temperature, cloudiness, rainfall, wind etc. It is different from climate which is the average weather over a much longer period.