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The Newcomers Guide To Essential Climate Change Terms


The Newcomers Guide To Essential Climate Change Terms

Climate Change or should we now say, the Climate Crisis is upon us. There is enough evidence to support this, and every other month or so; there are thousands of pieces of literature being published, major conferences, inter-governmental panels and webinars being organized to ideate, debate and deliberations on ideas, intentions, actions and the progress required to save the world, on the brink of a crisis.

And yet, if you go around and ask people on the streets, in corporate cafeterias or any public place for that matter – it rarely means anything to them. In fact, most would say that they barely understand what all those IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports and long hours of Conference of Parties (CoP) 26 conversations mean, simply because the language itself is so overwhelming, ridden with jargons and technical terms that have no bearing on their lives.

This is worrying, since it's vital for the masses to understand, grasp the magnitude of issues at hand and therefore act!

Let's look at a few major terms related to climate change that are often misunderstood or ‘go overhead' and yet matter immensely in our fight against the greatest challenge of our lifetime.


The Issue(s) at hand

  • • Climate change & Global warming? What's the difference? Simply put, Climate change is the long-term change in the earth's climate. Climate change includes variation in temperatures either increase or decreas. Ex. Places will experience colder winters and hotter summer as the climate of the planet continues to change. This could be good or bad. This is where global warming comes in, as one of the bad ‘enablers' of climate change. It is the increase in the Earth's average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases.
  • • Greenhouse Gases (GHG): Gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), among others, that act like a ‘plant greenhouse' trapping heat below Earth's Atmosphere. CO2 has been responsible for 63 percent of global warming over time, and 91 percent in the last 5 years. Although naturally occurring, the unprecedented use of fossil fuels has exacerbated its level.


  • • Fossil Fuels, Land use and Carbon Emissions Footprint: These are biggest contributors towards production of GHGs. While fossil fuels contribute significantly more, removal of forests, logging, ultra largescale agri-expansion contributes at least 25% of what we call ‘GHG emissions by reducing the natural capacity of the planet to absorb and transform CO2.


  • • Tipping point: This is when it will be too late to stop planet-wide effects of climate change. Globally, it is agreed that keeping the rise of temperature limited below 1.5 degree Celsius from the pre-industrial revolution era temperature can save us from the worst impact of climate change, However this target is getting more and more difficult for us to achieve and it is unlikely that we will limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degree.

Dealing with Climate Change and the global pathways

  1. 1. Mitigation: As the name suggests, these are efforts to make sure it does not get worse than it already is. In addition to deploying human intervention to reduce emissions, it also includes efforts to enhance the removal of greenhouse gases through creation of biological sinks (like, forests, duh!) or through chemical processes that can promote binding (quite difficult!)


It can get slightly more confusing when you hear mitigation terminologies like net zero or carbon neutrality that businesses and government often use. Let's look at a few of them:


  • • Net Zero: For an entity like business or government or even a city, Net Zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere because of them, are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere. This includes all efforts around adoption of renewable energy like solar and wind, making energy efficient manufacturing processes, reducing/reusing waste, and even afforestation. These initiatives are aimed at either decreasing the use of fossil fuel or increasing the capture of greenhouse gases.


  • • Carbon Neutral or Negative This is when an entity's net contribution to global CO2 emissions is zero or in fact it is removing more CO2 than it emits. The essential difference between Net Zero and Carbon Neutral is that Net Zero includes the reduction & removal of ALL greenhouse gases and not just CO2. Therefore, a business can be carbon neutral but still not be at a net zero state.


  • • Offsetting: This is where an entity tries to compensate for its GHG emissions through external activities that has no relation to its core operations. You may have heard of business buying carbon credit, which is basically the price an entity pays to reduce a certain amount of CO2 that it has produced. It is a subject of rigorous debate if offsetting can claim to be a valid method of mitigation for entities.


It is vital for entities to make sure that their mitigation methods are ‘like to like' which simply means that over a period, their efforts to reduce emissions corresponds to the warming impact that these emissions would have and not merely balancing it number to number.


  1. 2. Adaptation: Knowing that climate change is already underway and at an unprecedented scale, we also know that we can only do so much to arrest its progression and therefore the impact. Adaptation, therefore, includes human efforts to adjust to actual climate and its impact on everyday life, now and in the near future.


All around the world, we've seen a rise in extreme weather events like floods, cyclones, tornadoes and climate inducted impacts like largescale wildfires. Despite our best efforts, we will see sea levels in coastal areas rise significantly. Such events will put millions of vulnerable communities at risk, and at the edge of a huge humanitarian crisis transcending national boundaries. Climate Change adaptation which includes micro efforts like increasing the vegetation of mangroves in coastal India is crucial to help communities build resilience and live with the impact of what is to come.


Sustainable development is the key

The IPCC defines it as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and balances social, economic, and environmental concerns.

For you and me, it simply means living in a way that is good for us today but also sufficient for the people in the future.

You may have heard of “Sustainable Development goals (SDGs).” These 17 goals with 169+ targets aim to provide an inclusive and understandable direction to countries, governments and businesses, which can help them grow in ways that are healthy for both communities and the environment!


Authored By: Inesh Singh, AB InBev India