Glossary

 

Adaptation
In the context of climate change, adaptation is the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.
Anthropogenic
Caused by humans or human activities; usually used in reference to environmental degradation.
Biome
A regional ecosystem characterised by distinct types of vegetation, animals, and microbes that have developed under specific soil and climatic conditions.
Biodiversity
The variety of plant and animal life found in an ecosystem (see below) and the variation in their genetic makeup. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of an ecosystem, with healthy ecosystems having greater variety and variation in plant and animal life than unhealthy ones.
Carbon dioxide saturation point
The point at which oceans are no longer able to effectively absorb carbon dioxide and act as a counterbalance to greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate
The average, or typical, weather conditions of a given area observed over a long period of time, usually 30 years or more.
Climate zone
An area with a prevailing climate that distinguishes it from other areas by parameters such as temperature, rainfall even plant species.
Climate change
Any significant, long-term modification in the climate of a zone or region.
Coral bleaching
Loss of colour of corals due to loss of the symbiotic algae that provide their nutrients and colouration. Bleaching occurs in response to physiological shock as a result of abrupt changes in temperature, salinity, and turbidity.
Critically endangered species
A plant or animal is critically endangered when it is considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
Ecosystem
A geographical area where a community of living (plants and animals) and non-living things (climate, landscape) interact together and affect each other.
El Niño/El Niño – Southern Oscillation
A climatic pattern that results from the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere in the Pacific and the follow-on effect on global climate. It is caused when the trade winds that blow from east to west along the equator in the Pacific decrease in intensity (this is the Southern Oscillation) and bring about warming of the ocean temperature. The consequences are felt in the Pacific as well as globally.
Endangered species
A plant or animal is endangered when it is considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
Endemic/endemism
Found only in a certain strictly limited geographical region, i.e. restricted to a specified region or locality. This can apply to a disease or to an animal or plant species.
Extinct (in the wild)
A plant or animal considered extinct in the wild when it is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population (or populations) well outside the range in which it previously occurred.
Fossil fuels
A fuel produced by the remains of living organisms that built up underground over geological periods. They mainly consist of carbon and hydrogen and are therefore also known as hydrocarbons. They are found in different states: liquid (for example, oil), solid (for example, coal, peat) and gaseous (for example, natural gas).
Greenhouse effect
The warming effect of the Earth's atmosphere. Light energy from the sun that passes through the Earth's atmosphere is absorbed by the Earth's surface and re-radiated into the atmosphere as heat energy. The heat energy is then trapped by the atmosphere, creating a situation similar to that which occurs in a greenhouse. Greenhouse gases (see below) allow incoming solar radiation to pass through the Earth's atmosphere, but prevent most of the outgoing infrared radiation from the surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally and has kept the Earth's temperature about 60 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would otherwise be. Current life on Earth could not be sustained without the natural greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse gases
The atmospheric gases that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface, the atmosphere and clouds. Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3) are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Habitat
The location and environmental conditions in which a particular organism (plant, animal fungus or bacterium) normally lives.
Ice age
A period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in an expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers.
Ice core
Cylinders of ice obtained by drilling into a glacier. Since the different layers of ice are formed over time through build-up of snow, ice cores provide information on climate from different periods (up to almost one million years) that can be used for research.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme, the IPCC surveys world-wide scientific and technical literature and publishes assessment reports that are widely recognized as the most credible existing sources of information on climate change. The IPCC also works on methodologies and responds to specific requests from the subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC – see below) The IPCC is independent of the Convention.
Invasive species
   Plants and animals that are introduced to an area from another and successfully establish themselves and then overcome, otherwise intact, pre-existing native ecosystems.
Kyoto Protocol
An international agreement that is linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Its major feature is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.
Mitigation
Interventions to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.
Native species
All plants and animals that naturally occur, either presently or historically, in an ecosystem.
Photosynthesis
The process a plant uses to combine sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and energy (sugar).
(Carbon) Sequestration
The removal and storage of carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks (such as oceans, forests or soils) through physical or biological processes, such as photosynthesis.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the global challenge posed by climate change.  It recognises that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  The Convention enjoys near universal membership, having been ratified by 192 countries.
Vulnerable species
A plant or animal is vulnerable when it is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
Weather
Short-term atmospheric conditions. Weather is measured by temperature, humidity, wind speed, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness and precipitation.

 

Sources:

Green Facts Glossary

IPCC Glossary of Climate change Terms 

IUCN

La Cité des Sciences et de l'industrie