Climate Change 101

A quick list of climate change terms you’ll come across again and again. Hope this helps!

CARBON DIOXIDE – Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is vital to life on Earth. Whenever we burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, we are producing carbon dioxide.

The atmosphere isn’t the only part of the Earth that has carbon. The oceans store large amounts of carbon, and so do plants, soil, and deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas deep underground. Carbon naturally moves from one part of the Earth to another through the carbon cycle. But right now, by burning fossil fuels, people are adding carbon to the atmosphere (in the form of carbon dioxide) faster than natural processes can remove it. That’s why the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing, which is causing global climate change.

CLIMATE CHANGE – Climate change, also called global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. An overwhelming scientific consensus maintains that climate change is due primarily to the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. The gases trap heat within the atmosphere, which can have a range of effects on ecosystems, including rising sea levels, severe weather events, and droughts that render landscapes more susceptible to wildfires.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) — The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment. EPA’s purpose is to ensure that:
– all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work;
– national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information;
– federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively;
– environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
– all parts of society — communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments — have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and
-the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment

The Trump administration plans to dismantle or severely cut back the EPA.

FOSSIL FUELS – coal, oil and, natural gas — major contributors to climate change, accounting for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions.

FRACKING — process of drilling down into Earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. The process can be carried out vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally to the rock layer and can create new pathways to release gas or can be used to extend existing channels. The term fracking refers to how the rock is fractured apart by the high pressure mixture.

Fracking uses huge amounts of water, which must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost. Potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. There are also concerns that the fracking process can cause small earth tremors.

GLOBAL WARMING — phrase used to describe a gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and its oceans, a change that is believed to be permanently changing the Earth’s climate.

GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS — any gaseous compound in the atmosphere that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere. By increasing the heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which ultimately leads to global warming.

GREENHOUSE EFFECT — process by which radiation from a planet’s atmosphere warms the planet’s surface to a temperature above what it would be without its atmosphere.

PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT — an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. As of December 2016, 194 UNFCCC members have signed the treaty, 133 of which have ratified it.

Under the Paris agreement, every nation has formally submitted plans detailing how it expects to lower its planet-warming pollution. The Obama administration pledged that the United States would reduce its carbon pollution about 26% from 2005 levels by 2025. However, that pledge depends on enactment of Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. regulations on coal-fired power plants, which the Trump administration intends to substantially weaken or eliminate.

RENEWAL ENERGY SOURCES — wind, solar, and geothermal. With technology already in place, these sources can provide 96% of our electricity and 98% of heating demand in the United States.

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