Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.


Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Support

Bluesky Facebook LinkedIn Mastodon MeWe

Twitter YouTube RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe

Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...

New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts


2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #30

Posted on 28 July 2019 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Toon of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week...

Global Footprint Network promotes real-world solutions that #MoveTheDate, accelerating the transition to one-planet prosperity

On July 29, humanity will have used nature’s resource budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability organization that has pioneered the Ecological Footprint. It is Earth Overshoot Day. Its date has moved up two months over the past 20 years to the 29th of July this year, the earliest date ever.

2019 Past Overshoot Days by Global Carbon Footprint 


Earth Overshoot Day falling on July 29th means that humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.75 Earths. Overshoot is possible because we are depleting our natural capital – which compromises humanity’s future resource security. The costs of this global ecological overspending are becoming increasingly evident in the form of deforestation, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, or the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The latter leads to climate change and more frequent extreme weather events.

“We have only got one Earth – this is the ultimately defining context for human existence. We can’t use 1.75 without destructive consequences,” said Mathis Wackernagel, co-inventor of Ecological Footprint accounting and founder of Global Footprint Network.

His just released book, Ecological Footprint: Managing Our Biocapacity Budgetdemonstrates that overshoot can only be temporary. Humanity will eventually have to operate within the means of Earth’s ecological resources, whether that balance is restored by disaster or by design. “Companies and countries that understand and manage the reality of operating in a one-planet context are in a far better position to navigate the challenges of the 21st century,” Wackernagel writes. 

Global Footprint Network promotes real-world solutions that #MoveTheDate, accelerating the transition to one-planet prosperity. Press Release, Global Footprint Network, July 23, 2019

Toon of the Week...

2019 Toon 30 


Hat tip to the Stop Climate Science Denial Facebook page. 

Coming Soon on SkS...

  • 'No doubt left' about scientific consensus on global warming, say experts (Jonathan Watts)
  • Skeptical Science New Research for Week #30 (Doug Bostrom)
  • The 'war on coal' myth (Karin Kirk)
  • What psychotherapy can do for the climate and biodiversity crises (Caroline Hickman)
  • How climate change is making hurricanes more dangerous (Jeff Berardelli)
  • 2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #31 (John Hartz)
  • 2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #31 (John Hartz)

Climate Feedback Claim Review...

Data shows the Earth is currently warmer globally than at any time in the past 2,000 years


"A graph of the Earth’s mean temperature over the last 2,000 years shows two previous periods when temperatures were warmer than they are now; from 1–200 A.D., an epoch called the Roman Warm Period, and more recently the Medieval Warm Period from 900–1100 A.D.[…] It is worth noting that both of these climate optima occurred centuries before the discovery of fossil fuels and the invention of the internal combustion engine."


Apocalyptic Sea-Level Rise—Just a Thing of the Past?, Opinion by Gregory Rummo, Town Hall, July 23, 2019




Factually Inaccurate: Available climate records show that recent global temperatures are likely the highest of the last 2,000 years and there is no data supporting the claim that, globally, the Earth was warmer during the Roman or Medieval eras.

Flawed Reasoning: Natural climate change events in the past do not provide evidence that human emissions of greenhouse gas are incapable of changing the climate today.


It's not true that the world has been warmer at other times during the last 2,000 years. But even if that were the case, it would not change the fact that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing Earth's climate to warm.

Data shows the Earth is currently warmer globally than at any time in the past 2,000 years, Edited by Scott Johnson, Claim Reviews, Climate Feedback, July 26, 2019

Poster of the Week...

 2019 Poster 30

SkS Week in Review... 

0 0

Printable Version  |  Link to this page


Comments 1 to 23:

  1. "Earth Overshoot Day falling on July 29th means that humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate."

    To solve this very real problem would require quite large cuts to consumption of everything really. If you own a television, even an average sized home in a western country, a car, eat large meals, etc you are part of the problem but how many of us would give those things up? Hoping people will reduce their consumption significantly is a fantasy dream.

    Recycling and better farming systems would help, but much of the solution will have to come from smaller global population. If anyone disagrees with me, I would be interested in how much you have cut your personal levels of consumption.

    This is not an attempt to blame problems on high population countries like Africa. The consumption problem is mainly a western problem, but poor countries are also getting richer as well. Neither am I a huge consumer by western world standards. It is looking at the big picture, and facing reality, and making hard choices.

    0 0
  2. Yes, I have been wondering about this too. If people in the global north decided to reduce their consumption to meet planetary boundaries, then how much expenditure would that represent per annum (based on a notional basket of goods/services)? What would people do with the(ir) surplus "unspendable" income? Would we all work less? Would the economy be able to adapt?

    0 0
  3. The proper description of the concern is this sustainability of how humans are living and whether sustainable improvements are being developed.

    And the undeniable understanding based on abductive reasoning in pursuit of the best explanation of what is going on is that competition for perceptions of superiority relative to others with popularity and profit as measures of merit has developed unsustainable human activity that is detrimental to the future of humanity and has developed powerful resistance to correction.

    Growth of the total population is a concern. But the real concern is the total impacts of the total population. And everyone should be expected to aspire to being deserving of merit and living like the perceived leaders/winners.

    With that understanding it is clear that the problem is the example being set by the perceived winners. The developed competitions are rewarding unsustainable and harmful behavior.

    What is required is for the winners to be required to be proven to be deserving based on the helpfulness and sustainability of that helpfulness to the future if humanity. What is currently developed as methods of evaluating the merit of actions, and the people doing the actions, is failing to properly determine what is deserving of merit (popularity or profit).

    The growth of consumption and harmful results of human actions is what needs to be curtailed, not just the growth of the population. And the highest consuming and highest impacting people are what needs to be targeted for correction. Reducing total population while allowing total consumption and impact to continue to grow is No Solution.

    The developed ways of living of the highest impacting and consuming among the more fortunate today can only be understood as harmfully unsustainable. Significant incorrect overdevelopment has occurred. Correcting it is challenging. It requires people to accept a sacrifice of their developed perceptions of merit and ways of living.

    It would be nice if sustainable alternatives existed that were as easy and cheap for those benefiting from them as the currently developed activity is. But that is not likely a reality. That is likely a tragic fantasy.

    As for what I do. I drive as little as possible and drive a hybrid (because the power generation in Alberta is so bad that there is more impact from an all electric than there is from a hybrid, lots of coal burning to produce the electricity). I also consume very little that is not food or water. I also seek out Fair Trade goods or sustainably produced goods.

    0 0
  4. Another way to respond to concerns about total population is to point out that 'population' and climate change impacts are both included in the comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals. And all of the SDGs need to be achieved and improved on. And because of the lack of correction of the incorrect directions of development that have occurred, not just powerful resistance to climate change impact corrections, some developed perceptions of wealth or superiority relative to others will have to be given up to correct what has incorrectly developed.

    The coal barons of today are poorer than they were thought to be. The same fate will need to be forced on the oil barons, the natural gas barons, and all the other pursuers of perceptions of superiority relative to others whose actions are not developing sustainable improvements for the future of humanity. Those people cannot all be expected to sacrifice their harmful and unsustainable pursuits of perceptions of success and superiority. In many cases the rule of law will have to be developed in ways that effectively correct them, just as it has developed to limit other harmful unsustainable human activities.

    This also means the typical person will also have to be 'externally' encouraged to behave better, meaning having responsible leadership take actions like imposing carbon fees to correct their behavior.

    Anyone wanting to believe that their developed perceptions of prosperity 'must be preserved' is destined to be disappointed (the future of humanity does have to win, the sooner the better), but those resisting correction will regrettably be able to be harmful until facing that deserved corrective disappointment.

    Global understanding that needs to be developed for sustainable development to happen is that everyone's actions can impact the future of humanity, and  everyone is a part of global humanity and are only free to do as they please if what pleases them helps develop a sustainable improvement of the future of humanity. Tribalism is fine Within That Limit. However, diversity of people within that limit needs to be encouraged (acceptance of that diversity is another required correction that some people resist and they can be seen to partner up politically with those who want to powerfully resist the economic corrections that climate science has exposed are required - resisting improved understanding and resisting the related corrections of developed perceptions that are required to achieve sustainable development beneficial to the future of humanity is what they have in common).

    0 0
  5. OPOF @3, yes upper middle class and rich people could be called over consumers, often owning multiple cars and televisions, and having huge homes etc so some scope definitely exists for them to reduce consumption. I should have mentioned that, but didn't really have time.

    I fall into that upper middle class category, and I choose to live reasonably modestly in terms of consumption. Similar to you in fact. However Im not prepared to live like a pauper, and  we are nibbling away at the edges of the problem.

    The rich also have most of their wealth invested or its on loaned to other people, so their over consumption of material resources is just their immediate posessions. This is a significant factor, but its the consumption of other classes of people which is largest. Virtually everyone owns basic technology and uses transport of some sort and the impacts add up, so the scope for working classes and lower middle classes to reduce consumpotion is limited. So population is a huge part of the issue and potential solution.

    0 0
  6. Thanks for picking up on the Sutherland et al paper, it didn't elicit much response in the thread when I initially mentioned it. The findings, however, are nothing short of astounding: 2 orders of magnitude! I hope there is some follow up research.

    0 0
  7. Seeing this is my first comment, may i congratulate the people behind this webpage. I finally feel emboldened to challenge some of the anti agw / climate change people i mix with..Here in Australia, the election is over and in one state all the candidates were agreeing to open a new coal mine. The issue was jobs in a low employment area.If you were against it you were never in the race. Human nature will have to change and quickly, education, media concensus and to slow down growth,so we use less. With the standard of the political leaders here and worldwide, pushing their own agendas, or not facing reality, or are they playing the only tune the people want to hear?. You just have to see a whole aisle of toothpaste choices or another with pet food choices to realise the craziness in our lives. When i see car ads on tv i often think there is the very symptom of whats wrong, to me there should only be 5 models. The city car, the people mover, the sports, the 4wd/suv and the trades van/ute. You can pick colours or a few other custom features but all made by one or two companies and made to last with simple features. Will people go without electric adjustable seats, electric mirrors,heated seats adnausium? It will take a suicidal politician to close the car plants, the coal mines, and what ever wasteful indulgence the consumer driven western world provides. ..Now to finish on a positive, i hope some clever people can gear up to use the disenfranchised workers to now produce the solar or wind or perhaps any of the clean energy we are to need.

    1 0
  8. nigelj@5,

    My point is that the majority of the more fortunate need to be leading by setting helpful sustainable examples for every one else to aspire to achieve and improve on (be even better than). That majority would effectively correct and penalize any peer who failed to care to help set the required example.

    The more fortunate people investing in unsustainable pursuits of profit from harmful unsustainable actions by others is almost worse than themselves being the harmful consumers. So a lot of correction of perceptions is required primarily by the most fortunate since the most fortunate are the most powerful influence on the stories that get told and the perceptions that are developed.

    Edward Herman presented the Propaganda Model in 1988, with some assistance from Noam Chomsky, in "Manufacturing Consent". That explanation of how free market forces result in media fairly powerfully promoting the lintersts of the wealthy status quo has been show to continue to be valid today even though many things about media have changed. And it important to understand that the propaganda they evalaute happens through news, advertising, TV show, movies and even fashion magazines and things like the flak attacks on any presentation of understanding that would challenge the desired stories that support defend or excuse the powerful wealthy status quo.

    The way that improved awareness and understanding of climate science struggles to be popular and is unjustly challenged is a powerful case proving the legitimacy of Herman's Propaganda Model.

    0 0
  9. prove we are smart @7

    It is worth considering that a diversity of vehicle types would be desirable as long as each option was sustainable. The competition would then develop even more sustainable vehicles which could grow the economy by pushing to consume even less material in a fully recyclable way that requires even less energy, and that energy would be sustainable and be produced with ever improved material use.

    Advertising (propaganda) creating 'wants and beliefs in stories' that are harmful and unsustainable is a serious problem. The Propaganda Model I mention in my comment @8 applies. Creating dissatisfaction with a form of consumer consumption to encourage a new unsustainable consumption is a very damaging development. The result is more fortunate people tossing away perfectly functional things for a 'shinier newer' but harmfully unsusustainable technical development.

    0 0
  10. prove we are smart,

    Another way of identifying the harmful incorrectness of what has developed is to state that 'sustainable' consumer options should not have to compete with harmful unsustainable actions.

    Many harmful unsustainable activities have developed because harmful and unsustainable activity (that everyone cannot develop do) has not been effectively excluded from competing for popularity and profit. And the real kicker is the way that popular and profitable actions develop powerful resistance to correction, not even requiring the unjust Propaganda defending the wealthiest as predicted by the Propaganda Model.

    0 0
  11. prove we are smart @7, the consumer choice we have is so huge gives me a headache and wastes time in decision making, however it's a natural result of an open global market economy with many competitors. There was less choice in the 1970's when countries had huge protectionist trade policies, so were reliant on just a few domestic producers, but it's hard to see society going back to that form of trade. Bewildering choice looks like the new normal and does not seem a hugely bad thing.

    The greater concern might be built in obsolescence, but how does society change that?

    0 0
  12. Nigelj@11, Built in obsolescence can seem good for everyone but is really bad for the planet. I grew up when things lasted better This quadary is similar to the CO2 reduction...The sooner we act, the less painful it will be.Could i/we live with less choices? This word "growth", a measure of success. Can you not grow economies and keep people happy ? but save our dwindling resourses?

    0 0
  13. The Institute for Sustainablle Development has released a report  (Guardian article) that says if we eliminate the $US370 billion yearly subsidies on fossil fuels and invest 10-30% of the money saved in renewable energy that woud result in skyrocketing renewable energy use.  It only makes sense that removing subsidies on fossil fuels would result in faster uptake of renewables.  In addition, countries would have more money to use for other critical uses.

    1 0
  14. Michael Sweet@13, I reckon Exon Mobil and their mates would like that..

    0 0
  15. nigelj@11,

    Society can reduce unhelpful harmful things like planned obsolescence by increasing awareness of the importance of having everything governed by improved awareness and understanding applied to achieve and improve on the Sustainable Development Goals.

    Some people are trying to have new electronics like smart phones be repairable or able to be upgraded. But private interests profiting from selling 'new versions' fight against such obviously better ways of doing things. And like the resistance to 'more expensive' renewable energy many consumers also like to resist have sustainable better ways be imposed.

    Renewable energy options have only been more expensive because fossil fuels are subsidized, especially by not being required to be totally 'impact neutral' (meaning either having all potential impacts neutralized or having a conservative price imposed for harmful impacts that are not neutralized, including adding conservative costs as new potential harmful impacts are identified that are only reduced if improved understanding reduces the potential upper limit of the harm being done).

    0 0
  16. Just some observations

    1) During a period when CO2 has increased, the earth has gotten warmer. During the same period I have gotten older. 

    2) Have any controlled experiments been done to test the theory? For example, with IR transparently enclosed identical boxes set in a field with varying amounts of CO2 and temperature monitored.

    3) Same experiment as 2) under lab conditions with temperature change predicted by theory before the experiment?

    4) The earth is not a sphere at roughly uniform temperature. It is a thin crust surrounding a molten iron core.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Massive experimental work lab and otherwise supports climate theory. However, I suspect you have some misconceptions about how GHE works.

    Please use the Search function, (top left) or the Arguments menu item to find relevant information. eg for geothermal heat, see here. The IPCC reports are also good place to find reviews of the science though you are really talking about experiments going back to 1896. Spencer Weart's "The Discovery of Global Warming" website is easily readable outline of the experimental work.

  17. prove we are smart @12

    You said "Built in obsolescence can seem good for everyone but is really bad for the planet. I grew up when things lasted better This quadary is similar to the CO2 reduction...The sooner we act, the less painful it will be.Could i/we live with less choices? This word "growth", a measure of success. Can you not grow economies and keep people happy ? but save our dwindling resourses?"

    Goood comments and I agree built in obsolescence is a problem. I said it was concerning so I'm not sure how you missed that.

    I also said what do people think society should do about built in obsolescence? In other words what is your plan to get from built in obsolescence, to less built in obsolescence? All you have done is talk about acting sooner which is not a plan. OPOF has a plan to get from A to B. Now you are a clever guy, so what is your plan? Im putting some heat on you and others because people complain and wave there arms without offereing any solutions.

    I think its partly about consumer choice. For example its well known certain automobiles have a use by date of about 150 kilometres, while others will do huge kilometres without problems, so buy those. It's no good complaing if we buy the wrong products, although the real problem is when everything has built in obsolescence like smartphones. But is there anything governments could do to reduce consumer obsolescence using there power to regulate and use incentives?

    Yes I agree we could clearly live with less choice, but what does this really achieve? It doesn't reduce carbon footprints or other environmental impacts. People are still buying the same quantity of goods.

    Economic growth is a huge subject. Obviously infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet, so in crude terms its probable growth will slow down and theres evidence it already is in many western countries. You could grow the services sector, but growth related to resources will slow. Whether we push to slow economic growth deliberately is another question.

    If you are worried about our profiligate use of resources, and future generations running out of resources as a result, imho our best bet is to encourage our generation to have smaller families and consume less to reduce demand on environmental resources, but I find it implausible that people will give up on buying technology.

    0 0
  18. Correction. Some cars are designed for only "150,000" kms before they start requiring serious repairs, others will happily go well over 300,000 kms and they dont cost more in many cases.

    0 0
  19. Werner Hartl @16

    "2) Have any controlled experiments been done to test the theory? For example, with IR transparently enclosed identical boxes set in a field with varying amounts of CO2 and temperature monitored."

    Lab experiments have conclusively demonstrated CO2 is a greenhouse gas basically by shining light sources on canisters of CO2 and other gases and this goes back literally centuries. Easily enough googled and lots of youtube videos.

    3) Same experiment as 2) under lab conditions with temperature change predicted by theory before the experiment?

    Not possible except very crudely in that more CO2 generates more warming. The temperature changes predicted for the earths atmosphere as CO2 increases are a function of a huge vertical depth of atmosphere and compounding factors like convection, clouds and positive feedbacks that cannot be emulated in a glass container in a lab. It relies on complicated physics, modelling and paleo climate evidence (and we have some good evidence).

    0 0
  20. Nigelj@17,  My bad grammer made it seem like you had missed that sorry..AS for putting the heat on, yes, talk is easy,a plan or ideas is better. I like your ideas to consumer choice, carbon footprint growth and resource management. I'm not too clever and i must go for a town will maybe help me consider some other ways to change our predicament..

    0 0
  21. So i thought of examples that are working in the real world...My car is 27 yrs old, has no computer, nor air con. It has 536000 km on the clock, it is a dual cab ute. This model ran for 1988-1997, with few changes. I believe it was finally"updated" to be less agricultural, ie more refined, more comfort and more features. I bought it with 397000 km on the clock because this model dualcab had a reputation for overbuilt and underpowered. In fact the sales pitch even now is "unbreakable",what am i suggesting? We could build "things" to last again,if the consumer with govt help demand it so.

    I live in a small village with 1/2-1 acre blocks, my mate and his wife have showed me a good role model for sustainable living:

    They drive a second hand Honda Prius.

    They have solar power and low grid use.

    Grow at least1/2 their grocery items.

    Capture all their water needs.

    Composting, waterless toilet

    Maybe its easier for the villages/towns to adapt? As for city dwellers-use rooftop space for growing? I see communial vegetable gardens working around even the big towns-maybe cities too?

    Perhaps Michael Sweet@13 has a big part of the solution, thats a lot of money to do a lot of good..

    I guess if we grow less we will consume less? The jobs lost will leave people in limbo,is it time for a different form of capitalism?

    0 0
  22. prove we are smart @21, exactly car manufacturers can build cars that last for ages and don't break if they want, and have been doing it for decades, so when cars have use by dates its clearly deliberate. But nobody can really force manufacturers to build things that last for ages, we are not the Soviet Union, so its up to the public to be a bit smarter and buy long lasting products which will encourage manufactuers to do more. The government could do something like maintain a register of long lasting products, or perhaps consumer organisations could do this. Consumers need information. This will then push manufacturers to build better products.

    There might be something we could do to force manufacturers to make it easier to repair products.

    Your model for sustainable living is fine for those able to live in rural locations, or who have large sections. For apartment dwellers its a challenge, because they are so reliant on industrial agriculture and may not be able to move house or find small plots of land. It's like industrial agriculture has to change to a more sustainable model. Again it probably comes down to the public choosing to buy the most sustainably industrially grown food, and perhaps some government incentives for farming to become more sustainable. I'm at a loss to think what else could be done.

    Capitalism in its present form looks unsustainable to me, and AI might start replacing enough jobs to create a problem. The question is what to do about it, without creating even bigger problems, and repeating failed experiments like Soviet collectivisation. Its going to need some lateral thinking.

    0 0
  23. I tend to keep my cars until they are totally worn out, or new models have safety features that are really desirable. I couldnt care less if my car doesn't have apple car play or bluetooth, or the latest silly gadgets!

    0 0

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.

The Consensus Project Website


(free to republish)

© Copyright 2024 John Cook
Home | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us