If you’re flummoxed by some of the climate change jargon we hear on the news and online, you’re not alone. That’s why TAKE2 has put together this list of easy to understand definitions of the more common climate change words and phrases.
Don’t know what climate change means? Don’t worry – that’s in here too.
When talking about climate change, abatement means to reduce carbon pollution or emissions (these cause climate change) by using less energy and fossil fuels, like oil and coal. More information
Adjusting to climate change or other changes to the environment. An example would be installing barriers along the foreshore to keep high tides at bay. More information
Biodiversity is the variety of all living things, including plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems they are part of. More information
The energy stored in biomass (organic matter like wood or vegie scraps), which can be used to provide fuel, heat and energy. More information
Carbon dioxide is a colourless gas and a major contributor to climate change. When we drive petrol or diesel fuelled cars, use electricity produced by burning coal, or use wood or gas for heating or cooking, carbon dioxide is formed.
Carbon dioxide equivalent is used to compare greenhouse gas emissions based on their potential impact on global warming.
This is the carbon dioxide (a gas) produced by natural activities including decomposition and breathing, as well as human activities like making cement, chopping down trees, burning coal, oil and natural gas and many more. More information
Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced through activities that support society, like building a house, running a business, travel, manufacturing, farming and many more.
For example, your carbon footprint includes the type and amount of power you use at home, The type and amount of power you use to get to work and school, the amount and type of energy you use at work, what you eat, how you dispose of your rubbish etc. The sum total of the greenhouse gas emissions produced as a result of your day to day activities equates to your carbon footprint. More information
When the way you live and work doesn’t add to climate change, you’re carbon neutral or have reached net zero emissions.
To do it you have to reduce the greenhouse gases you produce as much as possible. Any remaining gases you produce you must compensate for, usually by purchasing offsets from an accredited offset organisation. The offset may be something like planting trees to absorb an equal amount of carbon dioxide to your remaining greenhouse gas emissions. More information
Many governments around the world, including here in Victoria, have set carbon neutral goals by mid-century, or sooner. More information
Carbon offsets reduce carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases by compensating for emissions made elsewhere. An example of a carbon offset could be returning excess solar energy generated by your home solar panels in summer to the electricity grid to compensate or offset the coal generated power you use in winter when your solar panels generate less energy because there is less sunlight. More information
Carbon sequestration happens when carbon dioxide gas is naturally or artificially removed from the atmosphere and held as a solid or liquid. For example, trees grow by absorbing carbon dioxide (sequestering carbon), storing the carbon dioxide in their leaves, stems and other parts of plants. More information
Sharing car journeys so that more than one person travels in a car to the same destination or same general direction. Driving is usually shared among the group. More information
Climate is the average atmospheric conditions, including temperature, rainfall and wind, in a particular region over a period of time (anywhere from months to thousands of years). It’s effected by weather patterns, the seasons and human activity in the region. More information
This is the change to the climate here in Victoria and around the world that can be measured, eg through statistical tests. Usually, the changes happen over decades or more. More information
organic materials like food scraps and garden cuttings naturally rot away, creating compost, which when used on soil create nutrients that encourage plant growth.
Using food scraps in a worm farm also create great nutrients for the garden. The worms ingest the scraps and cuttings and turn them into an excellent soil conditioner.
Composting also reduces the amount of rubbish sent to landfill.
Correctly processed and pasteurised compost should under no circumstances be classified as waste. While the inputs could come under the classification of waste, the point at which the combined materials has been pasteurised and matured under the Australian Standards is when it should no longer be classed as waste. More information
This happens when forests are chopped down and the land cleared for other uses. It’s bad for climate change because living trees absorb the carbon humans produce.
All homes have draughts. Draught proofing or sealing is when you find and seal the gaps that allow hot or cold draughts into and out of your home. It’s good for climate change because it increases energy efficiency. It also makes the home more comfortable to live in. More information
There are many different types of eco-labels in Australia and around the world which help consumers understand a product’s sustainability, like the energy star ratings system for appliances – the more stars on the label, the more energy efficient the appliance. More information
vehicles which run on electrical battery power, rather than petrol or diesel as in traditional vehicles, producing no greenhouse gases when they’re running. More information
Emissions are produced and/or discharged when we conduct any number of activities, the most obvious of these at home is when smoke is discharged through a chimney when we burn wood in a fireplace. Other examples include emissions from car and truck exhausts and industrial chimneys. More information
The amount of pollution produced by human activities and the product of this outcome is the emissions intensity or factor. More information
Saving energy, or using less of it. It reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and usually saves you money too! Turning the lights off when leaving the room and recycling aluminium cans are both ways of conserving energy. More information
Energy efficiency is about saving energy, reducing your bills and making your home more comfortable. It also applies to the energy efficiency of things like appliances. Energy efficiency also applies to any apparatus, equipment or energy consuming appliance. More information
When organic matter rots or is burnt it creates heat which can be captured for use as energy. However, to tackle climate change we still need to use as little as possible, reuse and recycle. More information
Energy management allows organisations and individuals to understand where and how they use energy and what they can do to reduce carbon emissions, save money and for business, improve profitability. More information
You improve your energy productivity when you do more, using the same or less energy. As well as using less energy, the energy you do use works harder and you waste less. It’s a bit like eating less, burning what you do eat more efficiently, then going further on what you’ve eaten. More information
Many Australian electrical appliances have an Energy Rating Label so you can compare how much power the product uses when compared to others. It’s also an incentive for manufacturers to improve their products’ efficiency. More information
Energy star rating is used on many energy rating labels to help compare the energy efficiency of products. The more stars on a label or rating, the more energy efficient the product. More information
The rates at which we use renewable resources (things like wind and solar energy), the pollution we create and the non-renewable (oil, gas coal) resources we use. If we can’t use those resources in the same way indefinitely, it’s not sustainable. If we can continue indefinitely, it’s environmentally sustainable. More information
Food that is thrown away because it’s past its ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date, spoiled food, food scraps and food that’s contaminated in some way. The average Victorian household wastes over $2,000 worth of food every year. Unavoidable food waste includes food parts which are not fit for consumption e.g. bones, fruit pits and many fruit peels. More information
Garden waste (also known as garden organics in the waste industry) grass clippings, flowers, leaves, twigs, small branches, weeds and other small prunings that come from your garden or other open space. It’s great for making compost, renewable energy and renewable fuels. More information
Gas ducted heating is where air is heated in a gas furnace and then blown into different rooms. The ducts are usually in the floor or ceiling. While natural gas is normally used to power the furnace, the fan pushing the heated air out is usually powered by electricity. More information
This is an increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere and oceans, largely caused by growing pollution levels. More information
Global warming potential was developed to compare different gases and their potential for global warming. More information
Greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. When the heat from the sun reaches the Earth’s atmosphere some of it is reflected back into space and some is absorbed by Earth’s greenhouse gases. Too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, created by human activity like using oil, coal and gas for example, and the Earth becomes too warm, creating climate change. More information
Greenhouse gases/emissions include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and some artificial chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Too many of these gases or emissions in the atmosphere causes overheating and climate change. More information
These are most commonly used as ceiling lights. Halogen light bulbs contain a small amount of a halogen (like iodine or bromide), hence their name. They are less energy efficient than LED lights. More information
Heat pump is an efficient water storage heater. It takes heat from the air (most commonly), water or the ground to heat water. More information
These vehicles run on a dual-powered engine, most commonly powered by electricity (via a battery) and petrol. More information
Insulation is used in most homes to keep the heat out during summer and the cold out in winter. Thick batt insulation in roofs is common in houses, but there are other forms too. When added to floors and walls as well, insulation acts like an esky in summer and a thermos in winter. Installing insulation is one of the cheapest ways to make your home more energy efficient and produce less of the greenhouse gases causing climate change. More information
LEDs or light emitting diodes, are the most energy efficient lightbulbs you can use. They use a lot less energy to provide the same amount of light as other globes and are cheaper to run. More information
Right now, many of the world’s economies are largely fuelled by resources like oil, coal and natural gas. These fuels power industry and most homes but create the greenhouse gases causing climate change.
In a low carbon economy, renewable resources (eg solar and wind power) that don’t cause climate change pollution are used instead. They produce very little to no carbon emissions, substantially reducing climate change pollution. A low carbon economy is one relying on renewable energy, alternative fuels, energy efficiency and efficient vehicles. More information
Lights that use less energy than incandescent or halogen lights. LED lights are the most energy efficient (See LEDs above). More information
Methane is a colourless, odourless gas produced in nature and by human activity. It’s around 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is used as the standard metric for greenhouse gas emissions. More information
Mini-hydro uses the energy of moving water to generate power on a small scale (100kw-1mw). More information
Mitigation happens when we reduce the force or intensity of carbon emissions by using less energy or using renewable energy like solar or biomass is mitigation.
When the way you live and work doesn’t add to climate change, you have reached net zero emissions (See carbon neutral).
Occurs in nature, but is also produced through agriculture and industry. Nitrous oxide’s global warming potential is around 300 times greater than the standard greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.
Paris Agreement is an agreement reached by 195 countries at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris to address climate change by keeping the temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. More information
Passive (solar) design takes advantage of the climate to keep indoor temperatures at a comfortable level. It means there’s no need or less need for coolers or heaters in the home, cutting the average home’s energy use by about 40%. Some passive design principles for houses include orienting the house to face north, well insulated ceiling, walls and floors and strategic window sizing, placement and shading. More information
Photovoltaic solar panels also called solar cells or PV cells turn sunlight into electricity. Many Victorians have solar panels on their roofs to generate their own electricity from the sun. This is renewable energy. More information
The greenhouse gases produced when humans burn fuels like coal and oil and do other things like raise livestock. More information
Turning unwanted or discarded items and materials into new products and services. Most Victorians have kerbside recycling collection (for used aluminium, cardboard, paper, glass, and plastics) and some also have kerbside garden waste recycling (for small garden clippings.) (Also, see garden waste definition above). More information
Energy produced by resources that won’t run out. Solar, wind, water, geothermal (heat from within the earth) and biomass energy are renewables. Using renewables reduces the amount of coal-fired power generated and this reduces the emissions causing global warming. More information
Reusing or sharing an item instead of buying new ones, which means fewer resources like fuel, water or energy are used, reducing the greenhouse gases causing global warming. Clothes handed down from one sibling to the next or reusing jam jars as drinking glasses are some examples of reuse. More information
Uses energy from the sun to heat water for household use, usually covering between 50-90% of a household’s hot water needs, depending on the home’s location and the type of solar hot water heater installed. There’s usually a gas or electric booster to heat water when there’s not enough energy from the sun to do so. More information
Not harming the environment or depleting the Earth of its natural resources and therefore allowing ecological balance. Sustainability Victoria supports Victorians to be more sustainable in their everyday life; in our homes and our jobs; in our schools and communities and in the systems and infrastructure that support a thriving Victorian economy and lifestyle. More information
Sustainable energy reducing energy use as much as possible and using renewable energy for any energy requirements. If Victorian households and organisations do this, it will help us achieve our net zero emissions target. Sustainable energy also refers to energy sources which are plentiful and lower in emissions intensity compared to brown coal for electricity generation and oil for petroleum fuelled vehicles, for example. More information
TAKE2 is our collective climate change action to help Victoria reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. TAKE2 gives all Victorians, including individuals, government, business and other organisations support to take action on climate change. More information
TAKE2 Pledge is the pledge, or promise, we want you to take when you join TAKE2. The pledge is: “Working together, we pledge to play our part and take action on climate change for Victoria, our country and our planet.” More information