Climate Change Jargon

Many people don’t understand key terms experts use to talk about climate change, according to a recent study from researchers affiliated with the United Nations Foundation and the University of Southern California. Do you understand these words when applied to climate science?

Carbon neutral
Tipping point
Carbon dioxide removal/carbon sequestration
Carbon sink

Mitigation – reducing climate change – involves reducing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, either by reducing sources of these gases (for example, the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat or transport) or enhancing the “sinks” that accumulate and store these gases (such as the oceans, forests and soil). There’s no net increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air
Carbon neutrality means there’s no net increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. It means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Removing carbon oxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration. In order to achieve net zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.
A climate tipping point is a delicate threshold where a relatively slight rise in Earth’s temperature can cause a more dramatic change in climate systems, such as a point of no return for ice shelves, ocean patterns, rainforests, or other systems central to life on Earth. Ocean warming may have triggered a tipping point for the frequency and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes.
Carbon removal/carbon sequestration is a process in which carbon dioxide gas (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere and then stored for an indefinite period of time. Geologic carbon sequestration is the process of storing carbon dioxide (CO2) in underground geologic formations. The CO2 is usually pressurized until it becomes a liquid, and then it is injected into porous rock formations in geologic basins. Biologic carbon sequestration refers to storage of atmospheric carbon in vegetation, soils, woody products, and aquatic environments, for example, by encouraging the growth of plants—particularly larger plants like trees.
A carbon sink is any reservoir, natural or otherwise, that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period and thereby lowers the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The two most important carbon sinks are forests and the oceans. Research companies are working on huge machines to suck carbon dioxide from the air, liquify it and inject it into deep geological formations.
Adaptation is the process of adjusting to current or expected climate change and its effects. Climate adaptation is the flip-side of mitigation. If mitigation seeks to prevent the environment from changing, adaptation seeks to help people live in a changed environment. Adaptation is open-ended and takes many forms. It can be disruptive, such as when an entire community is relocated, or discreet, such as when a shoreline is reinforced. It covers everything from helping farmers grow crops with less rainfall to making sure buildings can withstand flooding events. It includes installing early-warning systems for natural disasters and improving the management of waterways. Adaptation aims to moderate or avoid harm, and exploit opportunities.
Greenwashing is the dissemination of misleading information that conceals abuse of the environment in order to present a positive public image. The shift to being more environmentally conscious is pressuring a significant number of firms to adopt environmentally friendly practices. The demand for firms to go “green” is causing a corresponding increase in the number of businesses that claim green credentials when, in fact, they have from very little to none. For examples and guilty companies do a web search for the term. You’ll find many major corporations, especially fossil fuel and chemical corporations, among the perpetrators.

Thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.N. Environment Program, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Corporate Finance Institute, Global Citizen, Grist, National Geographic, and Wikipedia in creating these definitions.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mary Louise Hawkins

    I have been involved with Sierra Club and fighting Climate Change for several years. Being disabled makes less effective but I try

  2. Elliott J. Bush

    We are alike in that, Ms. Hawkins. I, too, am a handicapped Sierra Club member. No marches or rallies anymore for me, alas, but I write this blog, write letters to politicians, teach classes on Zoom, and pray a lot.

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