Adaptive Capacity is the ability of a
system to adjust to climate change (including climate
variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to
take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the
consequences. Also see the page explaining the link
between adaptation and mitigation.
Additionality The Kyoto Protocol articles on
Joint Implementation (Art. 6) and the Clean Development
Mechanism (Art. 12) state that emissions reduction units (ERUs
and CERs) will be awarded to project-based activities provided
that the projects achieve emissions reductions that are
‘additional to those that otherwise would occur.’
Agroecology is the science of sustainable agriculture;
the methods of agroecology have as their goal achieving
sustainability of agricultural systems balanced in all spheres.
This includes the socio-economic and the ecological or
Albedo is defined as the ratio of the intensity of
the outgoing radiation to the incident radiation. Put simply it
is how much sunlight is reflected by surface material. For
instance, albedos of typical materials in the visible light
range are from up to 90% for fresh snow, to about 4% for
charcoal, one of the darkest substances.
Algal Bloom is the explosive growth of blue green
algae that deprives aquatic life of oxygen. Algal blooms can be
toxic to animals and humans.
Anthropogenic Climate Change Anthropogenic
means "human made". So in the context of climate change it
refers to greenhouse gases, or emissions that are produced as
the result of human activities.
Argon –(Ar) constitutes 1.3 percent of the atmosphere
by weight and 0.94 percent by volume. Argon is isolated on a
large scale by the fractional distillation of liquid air. It is
used in gas-filled electric light bulbs, radio tubes, and
Geiger counters. It also is widely utilized as an inert
atmosphere for arc-welding metals, such as aluminium and
stainless steel; for the production and fabrication of metals,
such as titanium, zirconium, and uranium; and for growing
crystals of semiconductors, such as silicon and
Biomass: The total dry organic matter or
stored energy content of living organisms. Biomass can be used
for fuel directly by burning it (e.g. wood), indirectly by
fermentation to an alcohol (e.g. sugar) or extraction of
combustible oils (e.g. soybeans).
Bioplastics Instead of petroleum, biorenewable
materials such as starch from corn or whey from cheese-making
can be used to make plastics. Industry uses microbes or their
enzymes to convert biomass to feedstocks, building blocks for
biodegradable plastics, industrial solvents and specialty
Carbon Dioxide is a chemical compound composed of one
carbon and two oxygen atoms. It is often referred to by its
formula CO2. It is present in the Earth's atmosphere at a low
concentration and acts as a greenhouse gas. In its solid state,
it is called dry ice. It is a major component of the carbon
cycle. As of March 2006 CO2 levels now stand at 381 parts per
million (ppm) — 100ppm above the pre-industrial average.
Carbon Sink is the natural or human activity or
mechanism that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such
as the absorption of carbon dioxide by growing trees.
Climate Change the change in average conditions of
the atmosphere near the earth's surface over a long period of
time, taking into account temperature, precipitation, humidity,
wind, barometric pressure, and other phenomena.
Contrails: are the white line-clouds
often visible behind aircraft.
Coriolis Effect is caused by the rotation of the
Earth (not curvature) and is responsible for the direction of
rotation of cyclones. In general, the effect deflects objects
moving along the surface of the Earth to the right in the
Northern hemisphere and to the left in the Southern hemisphere.
As a consequence, winds around the center of a cyclone rotate
counterclockwise on the northern hemisphere and clockwise on
the southern hemisphere. However, contrary to popular belief,
the Coriolis effect is not a determining factor in the rotation
of water in toilets or bathtubs!
Critical Threshold The point at which activity faces
an unacceptable level of harm, such a change from profit to
loss on a farm due to decreased water availability, or coastal
flooding exceeding present planning limits. It ocurrs when a
threshold is reached at which ecological or socioeconomic
change is damaging and requires a policy
Desrtification: The progressive destruction or degradation
of vegetative cover, especially in arid or semi-arid regions
bordering existing deserts. Overgrazing of rangelands,
large-scale cutting of forests and woodlands, drought, burning
of extensive areas and climate changes all serve to destroy or
degrade the vegetation cover.
El Nino: translates from Spanish as 'the
boy-child'. Peruvian fisherman originally used the term
referring to the Christ as a child. This was used to describe
the appearance, around Christmas, of a warm ocean current off
the South American coast. Today, the term El Niño refers to the
extensive warming of the central and eastern Pacific that leads
to a major shift in weather patterns across the Pacific. In
Australia, and more so for eastern Australia, El Niño events
are associated with an increased probability of drier
Evaporation is the process by which a liquid becomes
Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude
cyclones, are a group of cyclones defined as synoptic scale low
pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of
the Earth having neither tropical nor polar
Forcing or radiative forcing, is a measure of
how internal or external factors affect climate. Internal
forcing is part of the natural chaos of the climate system, for
example ENSO. External forcing may be natural (e.g. volcanic
eruptions or solar fluctuations) or anthropogenic (e.g.
increasing greenhouse gases or aerosols). External forcing can
change the Earth's energy balance, and hence its climate
Global Warming: An increase in the
average temperature of the earth's atmosphere, especially a
sustained increase sufficient to cause climatic change.
Global Warming Potential: (GWP) This value
is used to compare the abilities of different greenhouse gases
to trap heat in the atmosphere.
Greenhouse Effect: Natural and anthropogenic
gases in the atmosphere that absorb and emit infrared or heat
radiation, causing the greehouse effect.
Helium – (He) A light inert gas and the second most
abundant element in the universe.
Hydrogen – (H) At standard temperature and pressure
it is a colorless, odorless, nonmetallic, univalent, tasteless,
highly flammable diatomic gas. Having been used as an
ingredient in some rocket fuels for several decades, hydrogen,
or more specifically H2, is now widely discussed in the context
of energy. Hydrogen is not an energy source, since it is not an
abundant natural resource and more energy is used to produce it
than can be ultimately extracted from it.
Methane - The simplest hydrocarbon, methane, is a gas
(at standard temperature and pressure) with a chemical formula
of CH 4. However, when averaged over 100 years each kg of CH4
warms the earth 23 times as much as the same mass of CO2.
Mitigation - in the context of climate change is any
action taken to permanently eliminate or reduce the long-term
risk to human life, property, and function from the hazards of
climate change. Also see the page explaining the relationship
between adaptation and mitigation.
Moulin - A narrow, tubular chute, hole or crevasse worn
in the ice by surface water, which carries water from the
surface to the base far below.
Neon –(Ne) A colorless, nearly inert noble gas, neon
gives a distinct reddish glow when used in vacuum discharge
tubes and neon lamps and is found in air in trace amounts.
Nitrouus Oxide - Unlike the other Nitrogen oxides,
nitrous oxide is a major greenhouse gas; per unit of weight,
nitrous oxide has 296 times the effect of (CO2) for producing
global warming. Nitrous oxide, is a chemical compound with
chemical formula N2O. It is used in surgery and dentistry for
its anaesthetic and analgesic effects, where it is commonly
known as laughing gas due to the euphoric effects of inhaling
Ozone- About 90% of the ozone in our
atmosphere is contained in the stratosphere, the region from
about 10 to 50 km (32,000 to 164,000 feet) above Earth's
surface. Although the concentration of ozone in the ozone layer
is very small, it is vitally important to life because it
absorbs biologically harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted
from the Sun. Some breakdown of the Ozone layer can be expected
to continue due to CFCs used by nations which have not banned
them, and due to gases which are already in the stratosphere.
CFCs have very long atmospheric lifetimes, ranging from 50 to
over 100 years, so the final recovery of the ozone layer is
expected to require several lifetimes.
Parabolic - A plane curve formed by the intersection
of a right circular cone and a plane parallel to an element of
the cone or by the locus of points equidistant from a fixed
line and a fixed point not on the line. What’s that? A bowl
shaped trough that focuses sunlight into a narrow beam. The
bowl reflects the incoming rays of the sun to a receiving
element at the centre of the bowl or trough.
Precautionary Principle The UNFCCC (Article 3.3)
states: Parties should take precautionary measures to
anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change
and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of
serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific
certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such
measures taking into account that policies and measures to deal
with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure
global benefits at the lowest possible cost.
Threshold Any level of a property of a natural
socioeconomic system beyond which a defined or marked change
occurs. Gradual climate change may force a system beyond such a
threshold. (see critical threshold)
Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is
susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of
climate change, including climate variability and extremes.
Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and
rate of climate change and variation to which a system is
exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.