Fossil Fuels.., CO2, Carbon Cycle, Glaciers…etc What do they really mean?

Glory Oguegbu
  • May 27, 2016


In this quest to make the knowledge of Climate Change easier, it’s important to understand the meaning of the following terms.

Definition of Terms

Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth’s surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change. However, global warming itself represents only one aspect of climate change.

Adaptation – Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment that exploits beneficial opportunities or moderates negative effects.

Resilience – A capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.

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

Adaptive capacity is the ability of communities and individuals to adjust to climate change, to moderate potential changes, to take advantage of opportunities or to cope with the consequences. The adaptive capacity of individuals or social groups varies, and is dependent upon their access to and control over resources. The poor have particularly limited access to such resources, and as such are most vulnerable to climate change and least able to develop viable adaptation strategies.

Adaptation to climate change refers to longer-term strategies, which deal with climate change (in contrast to short term coping strategies).
Adaptation is adjustment in natural or human systems, which moderates the harm or exploits beneficial opportunities associated with climate change. Adaptation is usually a longer-term livelihood activity and is a continuous process where results are sustained. It uses resources efficiently and sustainably, involves planning, combining new and old strategies and knowledge, and is focused on finding alternatives.

Weather is a specific event or condition that happens over a period of hours or days. For example, a thunderstorm, a snowstorm, and today’s temperature all describe the weather.

Climate refers to the average weather conditions in a place over many years (usually at least 30 years). For example, the climate in Minneapolis is cold and snowy in the winter, while Miami’s climate is hot and humid. The average climate around the world is called global climate. Weather conditions can change from one year to the next. For example, Minneapolis might have a warm winter one year and a much colder winter the next. This kind of change is normal. But when the average pattern over many years changes, it could be a sign of climate change.
Carbon: A chemical element that is essential to all living things. Carbon combines with other elements to form a variety of different compounds. Plants and animals are made up of carbon compounds, and so are certain minerals. Carbon combines with oxygen to make a gas called carbon dioxide.

Carbon cycle: The movement and exchange of carbon through living organisms, the ocean, the atmosphere, rocks and minerals, and other parts of the Earth. Carbon moves from one place to another through various chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes.

Carbon dioxide (CO2): A colorless, odorless greenhouse gas. It is produced naturally when dead animals or plants decay, and it is used by plants during photosynthesis. People are adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, mostly by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. This extra CO2 is the main cause of climate change.

Fossil fuel: A type of fuel that forms deep within the Earth. Examples of fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are created over millions of years as dead plant and animal material becomes trapped and buried in layers of rock, and heat and pressure transform this material into a fuel. All fossil fuels contain carbon, and when people burn these fuels to produce energy, they create carbon dioxide.

Greenhouse effect: Some of the energy radiated by the sun is converted to heat when it reaches the Earth. Some heat travels through the atmosphere and back out to space, while some is absorbed by atmospheric gases and radiated back to the Earth. The trapping and buildup of heat in the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface is known as the greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse gas: Also sometimes known as “heat-trapping gases,” greenhouse gases are natural or manmade gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases.

Glaciers: Glaciers are large sheets of snow and ice that are found on land all year long. They are found in the western United States, Alaska, the mountains of Europe and Asia, and many other parts of the world. The giant ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are also considered glaciers. Warmer temperatures cause glaciers to melt faster than they can accumulate new snow. As giant ice sheets and smaller glaciers melt, they add more water into the ocean, which causes sea level to rise.

Geothermal Energy – heat derived from below the surface of the Earth

Deforestation – the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses.

Renewable energy – refers to resources that rely on fuel sources that restore themselves over short periods of time and do not diminish. Such fuel sources include the sun, wind, moving water, some organic plant and waste material, and the earth’s heat (geothermal)

Solar-thermal technology – involves generating electricity by concentrating solar energy to heat a fluid and produce steam that is then used to power a generator; solar energy systems do not produce air pollutants or carbon dioxide

Wind turbines – wind turbines use wind to make electricity; the wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity

EPA’s Climate Change Indicators (2014)

The concept and science of Climate change by Glory Oguegbu


About Glory Oguegbu

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