10 Carbon terms you should know about climate change
Written by
11/05/2022

Many times when we are reading about climate change or watching a video on it, there are terms used, which may not be familiar to the common lingo. Worry not. We can help.  Here are 10 terms that you should know about before reading or watching anything on climate change. Decarbonisation: This means decreasing the […]

Many times when we are reading about climate change or watching a video on it, there are terms used, which may not be familiar to the common lingo.

Worry not. We can help.  Here are 10 terms that you should know about before reading or watching anything on climate change.

  1. Decarbonisation: This means decreasing the ratio of carbon dioxide (CO2) or all greenhouse gas emissions related to primary energy production. Decarbonisation doesn’t imply zero emissions, but to effectively communicate the scale of change needed, the term must be accompanied by a timeframe and rates of decarbonization.
  1. Carbon neutrality: This means annual zero net human caused or influenced CO2 emissions by a certain date. Commonly refers to a situation where the net emissions associated with a product or an organisation’s activities are equal to zero through the acquisition and retirement of carbon offsets.
  1. Carbon footprint:  A measure of the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions attributable to an activity, commonly used at an individual, household, organisation or product level.
  1. Net zero carbon emissions. Considered a synonym for carbon neutrality, however one key difference is carbon neutrality can be achieved at the domestic level with offsets from other jurisdictions, while net zero emissions does not have the same connotation. Both terms risk overshooting the carbon budget unless complemented by short-term emissions reduction targets. 
  1. Carbon budget:  It is the amount of CO2 the world can emit while still having a likely chance of limiting warming to the 2°C target. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, issued in 2014, estimates the world has burned through two-thirds of the budget.
  1. Climate neutrality: It is the same concept as carbon neutrality but rather than solely focusing on CO2 emissions, it extends to zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including emissions beyond carbon dioxide.
  1. Carbon sink: A natural or manmade reservoir that accumulates and stores carbon dioxide for an indefinite period.
  1. Greenhouse gases: The atmospheric gases responsible for causing global warming and climate change. The six Kyoto Protocol classes of greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydro­fluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
  1. Net zero GHG emissions: This can be confused with net-zero carbon emissions, but when accurately used, means all greenhouse gas emissions decline to zero, as opposed to just carbon dioxide. 
  1. Climate Change: Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among others, that occur over several decades or longer.

(Banner and feature image credits: commons.wikimedia.org)

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