Green Tech

Climate Glossary: Guide to Climate Vocabulary

The climate crisis is so ubiquitous in the media that one is beginning to lose track of it all. There are now so many terms that you would have to look them up on Wikipedia every five minutes to avoid losing track. And new ones are being added all the time ...


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What do terms like Geoengineering, Green-hushing or Ungardening mean? //next author Markus Sekulla has created a guide to climate vocabulary so that we can still have our say in discussions and on social media platforms tomorrow.

1. General terms

What is this sustainability anyway?

The ability to use natural and human resources in a way that does not deplete them and preserves them for future generations. It is about keeping ecological, social and economic aspects in balance and thus ensuring a long-term quality of life and prosperity for all.

What is Net Zero?

The point at which human activity is causing no net change in greenhouse gas emissions. This is achieved through reducing greenhouse gas emissions as far as possible and then neutralising any remaining emissions using greenhouse gas removal.

How can you imagine a tonne of CO2?

One ton of CO2 equals a cube of wood about one meter on each side. 

What are anthropogenic emissions?

Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), precursors of GHGs and aerosols caused by human activities.

2. Environmental Impact and Management

What does ESG stand for?

ESG is an abbreviation of Environmental, Social and Governance. It's a framework for measuring a company's combined impact across those areas. It does not cover carbon reduction or removal efforts.

What exactly is our Ecological Footprint?

The impact that human activities have on the natural environment, measured in terms of the amount of land, water, and other resources required to support those activities.

And our Carbon Footprint?

The total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, organization, event, or product.

And Carbon Offsetting?

The practice of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by funding projects that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or prevent emissions from occurring in the first place.

What is an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?

A process used to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, with the goal of identifying and mitigating potential environmental risks.

What is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)(LCA)?

A tool used to assess the environmental impact of a product or process throughout its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal.

What is Life Cycle Aosting (LCC)?

A tool used to evaluate the total cost of ownership of a product or process over its entire life cycle, including initial costs, operating costs, and end-of-life costs.

And what does Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) stand for?

A process used to compile an inventory of all inputs and outputs associated with a product or process, with the goal of evaluating its environmental impact.

And Green Chemistry?

The design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.

What is Geo-Engineering?

The deliberate large-scale manipulation of the Earth's natural systems, such as the climate or ecosystems, with the goal of mitigating the effects of climate change.

What is Fugitive Emission?

Emissions that have been released into the atmosphere through leaks in pipes, containers, or other equipment.

And what is the Albedo Effect?

Sunlight reflects back into space more off light surfaces, like snow or ice, than darker surfaces like rock, which absorb more heat.

3. Energy and Carbon Reduction

What are Renewable Energies?

Energy sources that can be replenished naturally, such as solar, wind, and hydropower.

And Clean Energy?

Energy sources that do not produce greenhouse gas emissions or other pollutants, such as solar, wind, and geothermal.

What is Energy Effeciency?

The practice of using less energy to provide the same level of service, such as lighting or heating, through the use of efficient technologies and practices.

What is a Greenhouse Gas (GHG)?

Those Gases contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

What is Carbon Dioxide (CO2)?

A naturally occurring gas, CO2 that is also a by-product of burning fossil fuels, of burning biomass, of land-use changes, and of industrial processes.

What is Methane (CH4)?

One of the six greenhouse gases to be mitigated under the Kyoto Protocol and is the major component of natural gas and associated with all hydrocarbon fuels. Significant emissions occur as a result of animal husbandry and agriculture. It has 80+ times the warming impact as Carbon Dioxide.

What is Carbon Neutrality?

Concept of a state in which human activities result in no net effect on the climate system. Achieving such a state would require balancing of residual emissions with emission removal as well as accounting for regional or local biogeophysical effects of human activities.

What is Decarbonisation?

The process to achieve zero fossil carbon existence.

What is Direct Air Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (DACCS)?

Chemical process by which CO2 is captured directly from the ambient air, with subsequent storage. Also known as direct air capture and storage (DACS).

What is Enhanced Weathering?

Enhancing the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through dissolution of silicate and carbonate rocks by grinding these minerals to small particles and actively applying them to soils, coasts or oceans.

And Mitigation?

A human intervention to reduce emissions or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.

4. Sustainable Practices and Circular Economy

What does Zero Waste imply?

The idea of minimizing waste production as much as possible, then composting, reusing, or recycling any other waste generated.

What is Upcycling?

The process of transforming waste materials into new products of higher value.

What is Sustainable Sourcing?

Sourcing materials and products from suppliers who meet social and environmental standards.

And Sustainable Forestry?

The practice of managing forests in a way that balances environmental, social, and economic factors to ensure long-term sustainability.

And Sustainable Agriculture?

Producing food and other agricultural products in a way that minimizes environmental impact, protects natural resources, and supports local communities.

What is Ungardening?

Stopping gardening, in particular the use of pesticides, and give the garden back to nature to recover and become a bee paradise.

What does Sustainable Transportation look like?

The practice of designing and operating transportation systems in a way that minimizes environmental impact and maximizes social and economic benefits.

And Sustainable Consumption?

Consuming goods and services in a way that minimizes environmental impact and maximizes social and economic benefits.

What is Waste Reduction?

The practice of reducing the amount of waste generated, through practices such as waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and composting.

Was is Circular Economy?

An economic model based on reducing waste and reusing resources through product design, material selection, and end-of-life management.

What does Cradle-to-Cradle stand for?

A design philosophy that aims to create products that can be fully recycled or biodegraded at the end of their useful life.

And Cradle-to-Grave?

The entire life cycle of a product, from the extraction of raw materials to the disposal of the product at the end of its useful life.

5. Corporate Responsibility and Financial Instruments

What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

The responsibility of companies to consider the social and environmental impact of their operations and take actions to minimize their negative impact and maximize their positive impact.

And Greenwashing?

A practice used by companies to make their products appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

And Green-Hushing?

To avoid being called out, companies are opting to stay quiet about their emissions-reduction goals.


A practice used by companies to blame consumers for the embodied emissions in the products through their purchase.

What is Fairer Trade?

A system that aims to promote social and environmental sustainability by ensuring fair wages and working conditions for producers in developing countries.

What are examples for Natural Capital ?

The stock of natural resources and ecosystems that provide benefits to humans, such as clean air and water, biodiversity, and soil fertility.

Was are Green Bonds?

Financial instruments that are issued to fund environmentally sustainable projects, such as renewable energy development or climate change mitigation.

What is Sustainable Finance?

The integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into financial decision-making, with the goal of promoting sustainable economic growth and reducing negative impacts on the environment and society.

What is a Zebra?

A start-up that focusses not only on profit goals, but also on sustainability aspects.

6. Social Sustainability and Planning

What is a Triple Bottom Line?

A framework that considers the economic, social, and environmental impact of business operations, with the goal of achieving sustainable development.

What is Social Sustainability?

Considering the social impact of production and ensuring that it meets the needs of workers, communities, and society as a whole.

What does Sustainable Tourism look like?

Developing and managing tourism in a way that minimizes environmental impact and maximizes social and economic benefits for local communities.

What is Sustainable Architecture?

The design and construction of buildings and structures that minimize negative environmental impacts, promote energy efficiency and conservation, and prioritize the health and well-being of occupants.

What is Environmental Stewardship?

The responsible management and protection of the natural environment, including the conservation of natural resources, the prevention of pollution, and the promotion of sustainable practices.

How could Ocean Fertilization look like?

Deliberate increase of nutrient supply to the near-surface ocean in order to enhance biological production through which additional carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere is sequestered. This can be achieved by the addition of micro-nutrients or macro-nutrients.

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