Climate glossary

What is Climate Change?

Earth’s climate has varied greatly over millions of years – at times being much hotter or colder than it is now. Human activities have changed the atmosphere and made it warmer. We have caused the climate to change extremely rapidly and have made weather patterns less predictable and more extreme. Earth can survive but it is increasingly difficult for humans to survive.

What are Greenhouse Gases?

The atmosphere is made of a mixture of gases. Earth and everything on it are warmed by the sun. When this heat is released, some of the gases in the atmosphere trap it. The gases behave like a greenhouse which keeps the warmth of the sun inside. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4) are very effective greenhouse gases. Each contains Carbon (C).

What is a Carbon Footprint?

Everything we buy, eat, drink, use, and throw away needs energy to grow, mine, process, store and transport. We also use energy for heat and transportation. If that energy comes from fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas*) then greenhouse gases are released while it is used. The amount of carbon in those gases is the carbon footprint, usually measured in tons of CO2 equivalent.

*The gas extracted from deep within Earth, for example, beneath the North Sea.

What is Renewable Energy?

Oil, coal and gas were formed millions of years ago. Burning them uses them up, and releases carbon into the atmosphere. Power stations burn fuels to generate electricity. Vehicles burn fuels to run. We burn fuels to heat our homes and cook. Winds, waves, and sunshine are renewable because they are not used up by humans. Wind turbines, tidal power, and solar panels generate electricity using these renewable energy sources.

What is the Climate Emergency?

Human survival is in peril because of climate change. We need to act now to reduce the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to stop the warming. This is an emergency because it threatens life and is getting worse. It will cause more and more problems including drought, famine, fire, storms, flooding and mass migration if we don’t act now.

What is Carbon Neutral?

There are activities that can take Carbon out of the atmosphere. Trees and all plants use carbon as they grow. Undisturbed soils and peatbogs trap Carbon. If humans can balance the Carbon that they put into the atmosphere with activities that remove Carbon, the net result is no change to the atmosphere. The effect of the Carbon emitted is neutralised by the removal of Carbon.

What is Climate Positive?

To reduce the effects of climate change, Carbon must be removed from the atmosphere faster than it is emitted. It is a positive step towards repairing the climate when more Carbon is removed from the atmosphere than emitted.

What are Carbon Credits?

Schemes providing services to remove Carbon from the atmosphere sell certified credits, also known as carbon offsets. These allow the buyer to offset their Carbon emissions with the Carbon removed by the scheme. This can help the buyer to become Carbon Neutral or Climate Positive. They are usually priced per ton of Carbon or per ton of Carbon Dioxide equivalent (tCO2e).  The offsetting activities do not, however, do not prevent or cancel out carbon emissions.

What is Carbon Dioxide Equivalent?

Greenhouse gases have different effectiveness at heating the atmosphere and break down at different rates. Carbon Dioxide Equivalent – CO2e – is a measure of how potent other greenhouse gases are when compared to CO2. For example, 1 ton of methane (CH4) has a CO2e of 21 tons. This means that 1 ton of methane could warm the atmosphere 21 times as much as 1 ton of carbon dioxide. However, methane breaks down in about 10 years, but carbon dioxide can take hundreds of thousands of years to break down, and there is about nine times as much CO2 in the atmosphere as methane.

What is Sustainable Living?

High-income nations have typically not considered the future impacts of the ‘buy more, get more, have more’ lifestyles they promote. This lifestyle uses up resources and has a high amount of discard. Sustainable living considers how future generations will need resources to live comfortably and safely. Choices are made to use resources carefully and equitably, and to avoid discards.

What is Biodiversity Loss?

Biodiversity is the variety of living things on Earth. Human activities such as changing land use, pollution and climate change are causing a mass extinction of species and reduction in variety. The reduction of just one species in a habitat can dramatically impact the rest of the food web it belongs to. This can affect how the ecosystem functions and impact human food security.

What is the Nature Crisis?

As a result of our actions, animal and plant species are going extinct and being threatened with extinction at a rate faster than at any other time in the history of Earth. In nature, species are inter-linked and depend on others for their survival. Reducing or removing a species from an ecosystem of connections can have consequences throughout the ecosystem.

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

Soil nutrients are used by plants to grow. Agriculture often replaces them with artificial nutrients – in fertilisers – to grow crops. These fertilisers can harm the natural life in the soil and can cause water and air pollution. Regenerative Agriculture reduces the amount of artificial chemicals used and aims to support the health of the soil in order to grow healthy crops.

What is Net Zero?

Net zero means a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and the amount removed from the atmosphere. Reducing emissions and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere both work towards Net Zero.

What is Zero Waste?

The packaging from bought items is usually considered to be waste and discarded. Household things are typically thrown away when no longer wanted. Zero Waste aims to prevent discards and to encourage reuse. The overall goal is for no waste to go to landfill, incinerators, or the ocean and for things to be recycled when they cannot be reused. Items, such as foods, can be bought with no packaging, with containers the buyer takes to the store, or with packaging that is recycled.

What is a Circular Economy?

Typically, in high-income nations, the economy follows a process of create-use-discard. This is linear, generates waste and uses up the resources needed, such as oil to create plastics. A Circular Economy follows a loop by using discards as resources for creating new things.

What is Shropshire doing?

Shropshire Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. Their goal is for the whole of Shropshire to become Net Zero in energy use by 2030. Several groups and towns are committed to making changes to reduce carbon emissions in Shropshire, including Market Drayton Climate Action, and Zero Carbon Shropshire, a group helping Shropshire Council and Telford and Wrekin Council.

What is Market Drayton Climate Action?

Formed in January 2022, MDCA is a group of people from Market Drayton and the surrounding area who are taking action to address climate change. Supported by the Town Council and Shropshire Council, the group has teams working on community awareness, education and networks; responsible consumption; lobbying; and transport.

What is Climate Drawdown?

The point at which greenhouse gas levels stop rising and are steadily decreasing. This can be achieved by reducing emissions, enabling more carbon removal from the atmosphere, and fostering equality throughout the world.

What are Sustainable Development Goals?

The United Nations have a set of 17 goals that guide development in a sustainable way. The goals aim for a fair and better future for all of humanity, in the sharing and use of land, waters, and resources. Many countries, including the UK, have signed up to work to achieve the goals.

What are Gold Standard carbon credits?

Carbon Credits are available to buy from the World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund. Working with other organisations, WWF set up Gold Standard carbon credits that take carbon out of the atmosphere, reduce carbon emissions, and work towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is Youth Climate Movement?

Young people who are growing up during the Climate Emergency and Nature Crisis see the urgent need to take action to improve the climate for the future well being of humanity and all life on Earth. Frustrated by inadequate policies in government and damaging actions by businesses, groups from around the world in the Youth Climate Movement are taking action and demanding changes.

What is Climate Feminism?

Women, children, people of colour and people with low income are affected the most by climate change. They have typically not had much say in things that affect them. People who recognise this situation understand how these factors can, and often do, intersect and multiply, and who want to act to change the situation and to bring about justice and equality, are engaging in Climate Feminism.

What is Climate Citizenship?

Citizenship is a shared human experience which drives people to act for the benefit of society as a whole and which benefits them in return. Global citizenship recognises that wherever we come from and wherever we live, we share one planet. Climate Citizenship acknowledges that our climate actions affect all of us; our well-being and success are interdependent.

What is Climate Justice? (A Friends of The Earth definition)

Climate justice recognises the climate crisis as a social and political problem, as well as an environmental one. It acknowledges that different communities feel the effects of the climate crisis differently, and that the responsibility for the crisis rests with some countries and companies more than others. And it understands that the lives of those already facing injustice and oppression are made harder by the impacts of the climate crisis.