15 Climate Change Vocabulary Terms You Need to Learn

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Climate change is a major issue that has a global impact. 

It’s critical to be a well-informed citizen who understands the effects of climate change, global warming, and other environmental issues. To do so, you’ll need to know what terms are being used to comprehend what’s going on.

If you want to know more about this topic, this article will outline some key vocabulary terms that it’s useful to be aware of. 

Greenhouse gases

A greenhouse gas is a type of air pollution that contributes to global warming.

Some common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. These gases trap heat from the sun in our atmosphere, which causes the Earth to warm up. This is called the “greenhouse effect.”

Greenhouse gases are a component of the Earth’s atmosphere that allows visible light from the sun to reach our planet while trapping heat. This is significant because the average temperature would be -18 degrees Celsius if greenhouse gases were not present.

When the concentration of these elements in our atmosphere becomes too high, it can result in a variety of problems, including extreme weather and natural disasters that can affect entire populations.

Carbon dioxide, for example, is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Photosynthesis absorbs CO₂, but plants only use about half of it, so some carbon remains in the soil, which can build up over time or be emitted back into the atmosphere.

Carbon emissions

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that plays a role in global warming. When fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas are burned, carbon emissions are produced. 

Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when these fuels are burned. When there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it traps heat from the sun. The trapped heat causes the Earth’s temperature to rise.

Emission reductions

When a person, company, or organization reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, this is known as emission reduction. 

This reduces greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere, making it easier for solar radiation to escape and reflect back into space. Because there are fewer greenhouse gases trapping heat in our atmosphere, this also helps to slow climate change.

Emission reductions are critical because they help keep the Earth from becoming even warmer, which could result in a slew of issues such as more extreme weather, sea-level rise, and biodiversity loss. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must all do our part to reduce emissions.

Global warming

Global warming is an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Global warming has been attributed to increased greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO₂).

Natural phenomena such as melting glaciers, rising sea levels due to thermal expansion and the addition of water to the oceans, and changes in wildlife and agriculture are all effects of global warming.

The greenhouse effect occurs when thermal radiation from a planet’s surface is absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and then re-radiated in all directions. Because some of this re-radiation is directed back to the ground, the average surface temperature rises above what it would be if the gases were not present.

Climate change

Climate change is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of issues. 

In general, it refers to the gradual rise in global average temperatures. This occurs because greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap heat in our atmosphere, causing global warming. 

Climate change has a wide range of potential consequences for people and ecosystems alike. It can result in extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods and more gradual environmental changes such as the extinction of species or increased drought.

So, why is it crucial to understand climate change? Because it is currently one of the most severe threats to our planet, climate change can cause significant damage, and we must be aware of this to take steps to mitigate it. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that climate change is a global issue that no single country can solve alone. We all play a part in finding solutions, and the more people who understand what climate change is and why it matters, the better.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy is a type of energy that comes from resources that can be naturally replenished

These include water power, wind power, solar power, geothermal heat, and biofuels. Renewables are vital because they don’t produce greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) when they’re used, which means they help reduce climate change.

Sustainable development 

Sustainable development is the process of improving the quality of life while living within the limits of nature. Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  

Sustainability requires considering environmental, economic, and social factors when making decisions.

It is essential for people and communities to learn about sustainable development because we all depend on it: our economy, health, food supply, and natural environment. If we create a world where everyone has an opportunity to prosper, it will likely be more sustainable in the long run.

Sustainable development is important for three main reasons: environmental, economic, and social. 

  • Environmental reasons: Our planet and everything on it make up the environment. It gives us the ability to breathe, drink water, and eat food. The Earth’s environment is a complex, interdependent, and connected system. When one aspect of the climate changes, it can have an impact on the rest. 
  • Economic reasons: Sustainable development is essential because it creates a healthy economy for everyone worldwide. A sustainable economy means that businesses can produce goods and services while protecting the environment from degradation. A sustainable economy does not deplete resources.
  • Social reasons: Sustainable development helps people and communities flourish. We all need healthy environments, economies, and social systems to live the best lives possible. 

When there are positive relationships between these three parts of our world––environmental, economic, and social––people and communities flourish.

Climate change impacts | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Environmental justice 

Environmental justice is the idea that all people should have equal access to a clean and healthy environment. It’s crucial because everyone deserves to live in a secure and healthy environment. 

Fighting pollution and climate change is also part of environmental justice. You should be familiar with the following terms when it comes to environmental justice:

  • Equity: The principle that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of race, gender, or income.
  • Sustainability: The ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Anthropogenic climate change

Anthropogenic climate change results from human activities that release greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Greenhouse gases are responsible for trapping heat and causing the Earth to warm. This warming can lead to many negative consequences like sea-level rise, more extreme weather events, and changes in local climates. It’s important to learn about these issues because these changes can affect the entire world.

Mitigation measures 

Mitigation measures are steps we can take to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we produce. 

There are many different ways we can do this, such as conserving energy, driving less, using public transportation, and recycling. 

We can make a big difference in reducing our carbon footprint by taking these small steps. Mitigation is crucial because it can help us slow down climate change and prevent the worst effects from happening. It can also help us save money in the long run.

Adaptation strategies

Adaptation strategies are actions taken to combat the effects of climate change. 

For example, farmers may start using irrigation instead of rainfall as a primary source for their crops because drought happens more often, and they need an alternative way to water their plants. Governments worldwide also have adaptation plans if sea levels rise or some floods affect their cities.

Carbon offsetting

Carbon offsetting is the process of reducing or mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases by compensating for emissions elsewhere. In other words, it’s a way to balance out your carbon footprint. 

For example, if you take a flight from Los Angeles to London, you will produce about two metric tons of CO₂. You can offset that by funding a project that removes an equivalent amount of CO₂ from the atmosphere. 

Offsetting your carbon emissions is important because it allows you to reduce your impact on climate change, even if you can’t eliminate them. It also helps support projects that are working to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. 

Carbon offsetting is one of the most popular ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and there are several different programs you can use to do it. 

Carbon footprint 

A carbon footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gases an individual or organization emits. Greenhouse gases are emitted when fuels such as coal, oil, and gas are burned to produce energy. 

The carbon footprint calculation considers all emissions from direct and indirect sources. By reducing your carbon footprint, you can help reduce the impact of climate change. There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, from small changes like turning off the lights when you leave a room to bigger changes like installing solar panels.

Climate emergency

A climate emergency is defined as a situation in which urgent action is needed to prevent or mitigate severe and potentially catastrophic damage to the environment and/or human populations from climate change. 

Climate emergencies can take different forms, from sudden disasters like floods or bushfires to slower-onset events like drought or sea-level rise. They can also affect other parts of the world in different ways––for example, a health emergency caused by extreme heat conditions in one area or an agricultural emergency caused by drought in another.

Climate emergencies arise when the risks posed by climate change intersect with other social, economic, or environmental stresses, such as poverty, inequality, land degradation, or food insecurity. They can also be triggered by sudden shocks to the environment, like a major oil spill.

Carbon neutrality

Carbon neutrality is the state of being where a company, individual, or organization creates no more carbon dioxide emissions than they offset. Carbon neutrality is important because it helps mitigate climate change and its effects. 

This can be done by reducing energy consumption, capturing and sequestering CO₂ emissions from other sources, or purchasing carbon credits. By becoming carbon neutral, we reduce our carbon footprint and lessen our impact on nature.

Aspiration Zero: It’s not just a credit card––get rewarded for going carbon neutral

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By making these choices in our everyday lives, we can go even further than just offsetting our carbon emissions––we can become carbon neutral! For more information on how this works and what benefits you could receive using an Aspiration Zero card, click here.

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