Global Warming Glossary


The Paris Climate Conference starts this week. Do you know the difference between climate change and global warming? (BBC)

Take our quizzes to see if you can spell out the A to Z of climate change. Warm up to climate change with this easy quiz, or get ready to go to Paris with this (very!) difficult one.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Use this digital toolkit to send world leaders a message—from #EarthToParis.

Discussion Ideas: A to Z
Here are some words and phrases you’ll hear coming out of Paris this week. How many do you know? Use the BBC, UN, or EPA glossaries for some help navigating the climate change alphabet.


What are annex countries?

  • Annex I countries are industrialized nations that have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Annex I countries include Australia, Finland, Lithuania, Russia, Turkey and the United States.
  • Annex II countries are a group of Annex I countries that have pledged to provide financial and technological resources to developing nations in order to help them offset climate change. Annex II countries include Canada, the European Union, Japan, and the United States.

What is AOSIS?


What is the Bali road map?

  • The Bali road map is a plan drawn up at the 2007 Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia. The road map gave deadlines for two working groups. One group focused on emissions reductions for Annex I countries, and the other worked on a more long-term global vision for reduced emissions.

What does BINGO mean?

  • BINGO stands for Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organization. BINGOs are just one way civil groups are engaging with global leaders in the climate change discussion. In addition to business-oriented BINGOs, the Paris Climate Conference will be attended by IPOs (Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations), TUNGOs (trade union non-governmental organizations), and faith- and gender-based organizations.


What is cap-and-trade?

  • Cap and trade is a carbon emissions trading strategy. Under cap and trade, carbon emissions are limited (capped). Businesses or countries that do not reach that limit can sell (trade) their unused carbon credits.

What is a carbon footprint?


What is a declaration?

  • A declaration is a non-binding political statement.

What is deforestation?


What is an emission reduction unit (ERU)?

  • An ERU is a unit of measurement established in the Kyoto Protocol. An ERU is equal to 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide reduced or removed by projects or agreements.

What does “entry into force” mean?

  • “Entry into force” is a key concept—it’s the point at which an intergovernmental agreement becomes legally binding.


What is a feedback loop, sometimes called a feedback mechanism?

  • Feedback loops describe the way rising temperatures on the Earth change the environment in ways that affect the rate of warming. Accelerating ice loss in the Arctic is a great example of a feedback loop: The less sunlight is reflected, the more heat the ocean absorbs. A warmer ocean weakens the ice above—causing it to thin and warm the ocean even more. Because thinner ice is flatter, it allows melt ponds to accumulate on the surface, and liquid water is much less reflective than solid ice or snow. This allows the ice to weaken and thin—and warm the ocean even more. Here’s a beautiful map of the Arctic’s feedback loop.

What are fugitive fuel emissions?

  • Fugitive fuel emissions are greenhouse gas emissions produced as byproducts or waste in the process of fuel production, storage, or transport. Leaked methane from pipelines or oil and gas drilling are fugitive fuel emissions.


What is the G77?

What is global warming?

  • Global warming describes the current period of climate change. Most organizations prefer to use “climate change” instead of “global warming,” as the effects of climate change do not simply raise temperatures.


What is the hockey stick?

What is hot air?

  • Hot air describes the concern that some governments will be able to meet their targets for greenhouse gas emissions with minimal effort, and could then flood the market with emissions credits (under cap and trade). This availability of inexpensive carbon credits could reduce the incentive for other countries to cut their own emissions.


What is an IGO?

What is the IPCC?

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific body established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical, and socio-economic work relevant to climate change, but does not carry out its own research. The IPCC was honored with the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


What is joint implementation?

  • Joint implementation describes a relationship in which a developed nation can receive emissions reduction units (ERUs) when it helps finance projects that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in another developed country.


  • JUSSCANNZ describes non-European industrialized countries which occasionally meet to discuss issues related to climate change. The members are Japan, the United States, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand. Iceland, Mexico, and South Korea have also attended JUSSCANZ meetings.


What is the Kyoto Protocol?


What are LDCs?

What is LULUCF?

  • LULUCF describes Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry. Activities in LULUCF provide a method of offsetting carbon emissions, either by increasing the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (by planting trees, for example), or by reducing emissions (by curbing deforestation, for example).


What is the MLDC?

What is MRV?

  • MRV stands for measurable, reportable, and verifiable. MRV describes a concept and process to guide all climate change data.


What is the natural greenhouse effect?

What are no-regrets options?

  • No-regrets options describe technology for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions whose other benefits are so extensive that the investment is worth it for those reasons alone. Other benefits usually include improved energy efficiency and reduced energy costs.


What are observers?

  • Observers are representatives from government agencies, IGOs, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or other groups that can attend and inform, but not vote, at the climate change conference. Some observers include the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Climate Action Network.

What is ocean acidification?

  • Ocean acidification describes increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in seawater, which causes a measurable increase in acidity (a reduction in pH). This may threaten corals, mollusks, algae, and crustaceans.


What are ppm?

  • PPM stands for parts per million, usually used as short for ppmv (parts per million by volume, which is simply the number of parts of a chemical found in one million parts of a particular gas, liquid, or solid). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested in 2007 that the world should aim to stabilize greenhouse gas levels at 450 ppm in order to avert dangerous climate change. (Current levels of CO2 only are about 380ppm.)

What is a protocol?

  • A protocol is an international agreement linked to an existing convention. Protocols typically strengthen a convention by adding new, more detailed commitments. The 1992 Kyoto Protocol, for instance, strengthened the 1992 Convention on Climate Change (also known as the Rio Summit or the Earth Summit).


What are QELROs?

  • QELROs stands for Quantified Emissions Limitation and Reduction Commitments. QELROs are legally binding deadlines for meeting goals of the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries.


What is REDD?

  • REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. This concept would provide developing countries with financial incentives to preserve forests.

What are reservoirs?

  • In this context, reservoirs describe carbon sinks, places that store or removes carbon from the atmosphere. The world’s biggest carbon reservoirs are oceans and forests, which naturally absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


What are spillover effects?

  • Spillover effects describe consequences in developing countries caused by actions taken by developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions. For example, emissions reductions in developed countries could lower demand for oil and thus international oil prices. This may lead to more use of oil and greater emissions in developing nations—offsetting the original cuts.

What is the Stern Review?


What is 20-20-20?

What is technology transfer?

  • Technology transfer describes a process where technological advances are shared, cost-free, between participating countries.


What are some UN groups involved in climate change discussions?

  • A lot. For example, UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification); UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme); and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) are just a few UN agencies and programs involved in climate change discussions.


What makes a region vulnerable to climate change?

  • Vulnerability describes the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.


What is WHO?

  • WHO is the World Health Organization. WHO is involved in climate change discussions for many reasons: Climate change is altering the geographic range and seasonality of certain infectious diseases; disturbing food-producing ecosystems; and increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.

What is the WTO?

  • The WTO is the World Trade Organization, an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade and commerce. The WTO is involved in climate change discussions to ensure that market operations go hand-in-hand with environmental and social objectives.


What is xeriscaping?

  • Xericaping describes the practice of designing landscapes to reduce or eliminate the need for costly and energy-draining irrigation. Xeriscaped landscapes need little or no water beyond what the natural climate provides.


What is a YOUNGO?


What are zones?



BBC: Is there a danger to environmental jargon?

Nat Geo: Climate Change Quiz: Easy!

Nat Geo: Climate Change Quiz: Difficult!

BBC: Climate change glossary

UN: Glossary of climate change acronyms

EPA: Glossary of Climate Change Terms

US Forest Service: Climate Change Glossary

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