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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #49A

Posted on 1 December 2014 by John Hartz

All eyes on Lima as climate negotiations begin crucial period

The major UN climate talks of the year (COP20) get underway in Lima next week, offering up an opportunity to ramp up climate action while kicking off an intense 12 months of the global climate negotiations. In just a year’s time, governments from around the world are expected to sign off a new global climate agreement, which will see all countries, big and small, accept emissions targets.

In the last few months alone we’ve seen mass mobilisations around the world, the UN Secretary General’s climate summit, a stark report from the world’s climate scientists, and demands for action from a diverse community of voices including business and religious groups – all driving climate change back to the top of the political agenda. Governments can no longer afford to ignore the calls to scale up their transition from dirty fossil fuels to renewable energy. With China, the US and the EU all unveiling climate action plans in recent weeks, and nearly US $9.6 billion raised in climate finance pledges, a strong sense of political momentum accompanies the next fortnight of talks. But much work is still to be done.

Daily Tck: All eyes on Lima as climate negotiations begin crucial period by Tierney Smith, tcktcktck, Nov 30, 2014

Annual UN climate conference held in Peru, the human face of climate risks

The sound of a massive Glacier 513 cracks over speakers in the town hall of Huaraz in western Peru. The TV screens in the hall show the scene as the unstable ice mass on the Nevado Hualcan Mountain creaks and disintegrates high above the 11,000 townsfolk. Transmitted from geophones and CCTVs on the glacier, the noise and images are the constant reminder of the threats posed by climate change.

More than 70 per cent of the world's tropical glaciers are located in Peru. Between 1939 and 2006, they have been reduced by 39 per cent as the temperature in the Andes has risen by 0.7 degrees.

If Peru - the venue for the annual United Nations climate conference, starting next week - is one of the most exposed countries to the impacts of climate change, thanHuaraz, high in the Cordillera de los Andes, is close to its ground zero.

Annual United Nations climate conference held in Peru, the human face of climate risks by Marcus Priest, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov 30, 2014

As Mexico addresses climate change, critics point to shortcomings

Faced with the growing threat of extreme weather — droughts, hurricanes and rising coastal waters — Mexico has positioned itself as a leader in the fight against climate change. It pledges to curb the rise in emissions significantly by 2020 and to produce one-third of its energy from clean sources by 2024.

Mexico, the world’s 13th-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, has passed a stack of federal and state laws that regulate emissions, promote sustainable forest management and establish funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency. In 2012, it became one of the first countries in the world to pass a climate change law.

But as world leaders meet in Lima, Peru, this week to lay the groundwork for a new agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, some analysts doubt that Mexico can meet its much-lauded targets.

As Mexico Addresses Climate Change, Critics Point to Shortcomings by Victoria Burnett, New York Times, Nov 29, 2014

At Lima climate talks, 2-degree warming limit Is a thing of the past

We are now officially in arm’s reach of “dangerous” levels of global warming.

United Nations negotiators are meeting this week in Peru to forge a much-anticipated draft agreement to curb global climate change. They’re brimming with optimism after the recent climate agreement between the U.S. and China, which had eluded negotiators for years.

But amid the hope is a much darker reality: Years of stalled talks and baby steps toward action have all but ensured that we will pass the previous do-not-pass benchmark of 2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100. Now, The New York Times reports, the negotiators’ objective is to stave off atmospheric warming of 4 to 10 degrees by the end of the century, at which point, experts say, Earth may “become increasingly uninhabitable.”

At Lima Climate Talks, 2-Degree Warming Limit Is a Thing of the Past by Zoe Schlanger, Newsweek, Dec 1, 2014

Australia has hottest spring on record as temperatures soar

The soaring temperatures could make 2014 Australia's hottest year on record.

Maximum temperatures were warmer than average across nearly the entire continent, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).

Nine of the warmest springs on record occurred since 2002, said BoM Manager of Climate Monitoring Karl Braganza.

"Australia has been warming up by about 0.9C [a year] since 1910," Dr Braganza told the BBC.

Australia has hottest spring on record as temperatures soar by Wendy Frew, BBC Online, Dec 1, 2014

Climate change adaptation comes of age in UN talks

In Peru, where two weeks of U.N. climate talks begin Monday, melting glaciers and more extreme weather such as hot spells and flash frosts are already harming crops and incomes, and keeping people in poverty, aid workers say.

"From the Andes to the jungles, communities are doing what they can, but their efforts will never be enough without ambitious global action to tackle climate change," said Milo Stanojevich, CARE International's Peru director.

The Lima negotiations are tasked with settling on the key elements of a new global climate deal due to be finalised in Paris in a year's time, and working out how to make bigger reductions in planet-warming emissions before that deal comes into force in 2020.

Climate change adaptation comes of age in UN talks by Megan Rawling, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Nov 30, 2014

Five threats to the EPA’s climate rule

Supporters and opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon regulations for power plants talk about the benefits and costs as if enactment of the new standards is inevitable.

But there are still many steps that have to be taken at the federal and state level to meet the Obama administration’s goal of slashing power plants’ carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

And the path ahead is fraught with potential obstacles, as critics strive to weaken the regulations or scrap them entirely.

Here is a closer look at five of the greatest threats to President Obama’s landmark rule to fight climate change.

Five threats to the EPA’s climate rule by Timothy Cama, The Hill, Nov 30, 2014

Global climate talks open with push for human rights

For all the flack the U.N. climate talks have taken over the past 20 years, one major achievement will be on display as the next round of negotiations open in Peru today.

Climate change has been inextricably linked to social justice.

The key questions that face the delegates as they meet in Lima are no longer simply about carbon emissions targets and timetables, but also about people and human rights.

One mark of that shift is the $9.6 billion committed so far by rich nations to the U.N.'s Green Climate Fund to help poor countries. 

But it's not just about money.  

Global climate talks open with push for human rights by Marianne Lavelle, The Daily Climate/Scientific American, Dec 1, 2014

India's climate change opportunity                                 

India lags far behind rival China in wealth and development — and also in the amount of carbon dioxide it spews into the atmosphere. Indian leaders say this explains why they shouldn't be expected to limit their greenhouse-gas output as China has just done. At globalclimate talks in Lima this week, they'll probably also point out that 1 in 4 Indians still lacks electricity, so the country can't afford any limits on economic growth.

In fact, India's relatively low level of development is exactly why it stands to benefit from setting aggressive emissions targets. It means, first, that the country has a chance to build smarter. According to one government estimate, some 70 percent of India's buildings in 2030 will have been constructed after 2011. Enforcing strict green buildingcodes now, and providing financial and tax incentives to comply, would limit the carbon intensity of India’s growth and, at the same time, improve its air quality and help businesses save money.

India's climate change opportunity, Editorial Board, Bloomberg, Nov 30, 2014

Lima climate change talks best chance for a generation, say upbeat diplomats

UN climate negotiations opening in Lima on Monday have the best chance in a generation of striking a deal on global warming, diplomats say.

After a 20-year standoff, diplomats and longtime observers of the talks say there is rising optimism that negotiators will be able to secure a deal that will commit all countries to take action against climate change.

The two weeks of talks in Peru are intended to deliver a draft text to be adopted in Paris next year that will commit countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions without compromising the economic development of poor countries.

Diplomats and observers of the UN climate negotiations said recent actions by the US and China had injected much-needed momentum.

Lima climate change talks best chance for a generation, say upbeat diplomats by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, Nov 30, 2014

Optimism faces grave realities at climate talks

After more than two decades of trying but failing to forge a global pact to halt climate change, United Nations negotiators gathering in South America this week are expressing a new optimism that they may finally achieve the elusive deal.

Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans.

For the next two weeks, thousands of diplomats from around the globe will gather in Lima, Peru, for a United Nations summit meeting to draft an agreement intended to stop the global rise of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Optimism Faces Grave Realities at Climate Talks by Coral Davenport, New York Times, Nov 30, 2014

Response to climate change: More symbolism than science

The battle over the Keystone XL pipeline is more symbolic than substantial. The State Department's environmental assessment report admits that the pipeline won't significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. And the failure to build it won't destroy our energy infrastructure.

Still, I'm happy that the Senate rejected the pipeline on Nov. 18. If a Republican-controlled Congress approves it next year, I hope that President Obama vetoes it.

Unfortunately, in the climate-change debate, symbolism has superseded science, and fantasy and denial have overwhelmed rational discourse and action. Therefore, our response to the threat of climate change has been so feeble that even symbolic gestures like the rejection of Keystone have the virtue of representing at least some action, no matter how meager. 

Response to climate change: More symbolism than science, Op-ed by John Crisp, Tribune News Service, Dec 1, 2014

Testing the limits of European ambitions on emissions

The European Union has long been a world leader on climate change, and its new agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 keeps it at the forefront of that effort. But experts question whether the plans European leaders have sketched out are strong enough to meet their ambitious goal, and even whether a 40 percent cut is enough to keep the Continent on track toward its longer-term target, an emissions cut of between 80 percent and 95 percent by mid-century.

Even as it presses ahead, Europe knows that it is only one piece of the climate puzzle, its emissions accounting for 13 percent of the world’s total. Like the U.S.-China deal announced in Beijing last month, the October agreement among Europe’s 28 national leaders was intended to give a push to global climate negotiations, which resume this week in Lima, Peru, and are to culminate in a major summit meeting in Paris next year.

“They’re aiming higher than almost anybody else,” said Gail Whiteman, climate change and sustainability professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, in the Netherlands. But concessions demanded by coal-dependent Poland significantly weakened the deal. “At some point, it doesn’t matter what the politics say, we’re going to walk into tipping points,” where climate changes spin out of control, “and that’s the problem,” she said.

Testing the Limits of European Ambitions on Emissions by Beth Gardiner, New York Times, Nov 30, 2014

The South demands clarity in financing and adaptation at COP20

At the 12-day climate summit that began Monday in the Peruvian capital, representatives of 195 countries and hundreds of members of civil society are trying to agree on the key points of a new international treaty aimed at curbing global warming.

The official delegations and the representatives of organised civil society in the developing South are looking to move forward towards a binding draft agreement on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, to be signed a year from now.

Expectation surrounds the commitments that industrialised countries will make on how to finance the fight against climate change and the inclusion of binding targets to reduce the current vulnerability, civil society representatives told IPS.

“Lima has to produce a text that has elements laying the foundations of the 2015 agreement,” Enrique Maurtua, international policy adviser to the Latin America branch of the Climate Action Network (CAN), told IPS. “It will be signed next year, but the elements have to be here now, such as for example the contributions of the countries and what they will consist of.”

Maurtua said “These contributions have to be equitable, and have to include indicators like historic needs, adaptation or the development needs of the countries.”

The South Demands Clarity in Financing and Adaptation at COP20 by Diego Arguedas Ortiz, Inter Press Service (IPS), Dec 1, 2014

We're kidding ourselves on 2-degree global warming limit

A temperature rise that could cause irreversible and potentially catastrophic damage to human civilization is practically inevitable, according to rising chatter among experts in the lead up to a year of key negotiations on a new climate change global accord.

World leaders have voluntarily committed to limit warming by the end of the century to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level, a threshold beyond which, scientists argue, severe drought, rising seas and supercharged storms as well as food and water security become routine challenges.

Given the world's historic emissions combined with a continued reliance on fossil fuels to power humanity for the foreseeable future, limiting the increase to 2 degrees Celsius is all but impossible, according to David Victor, a professor of international relations and an expert on climate change policy at the University of California, San Diego.

We're Kidding Ourselves on 2-Degree Global Warming Limit: Experts by John Raoch, NBC News, Nov 28, 2014

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