Guide: A Warm Response - Our Climate Change Challenge

Appendix 2 – Abbreviations and Glossary of Terms

AdaptationAdjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.
Adaptive CapacityThe ability of a system to adjust to climate change to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.
AnthropogenicResulting from or produced by human beings.
AtmosphereThe gaseous envelope surrounding the Earth. The dry atmosphere consists almost entirely of nitrogen (78.1%) and oxygen (20.9%), together with a number of trace gases, such as argon (0.93%), helium, and radiatively active greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (0.035%) and ozone. In addition, the atmosphere contains water vapour.
 BaselineThe baseline is any datum against which change is measured. In a climate change context 1990 is the baseline year for emissions reduction purposes. The baseline climate period is taken as 1961 – 1990.
Beaufort (Scale) ForceA numerical wind force scale ranging from 0 (calm) to 12 (hurricane) devised by Admiral Beaufort in 1805.
 BiodegradableCapable of being broken down by living organisms, principally bacteria and fungi. This process can have some disadvantageous side effects, such as the release of methane.
 BiodiversityThe numbers and relative abundances of different genes, species and ecosystems in a particular area.
 BiomassThe total mass of living organisms. However, the term is often used to describe a type of renewable energy and heat production using wood, forest and agricultural residues and wastes, and a wide range of organic wastes such as animal slurry and kitchen waste.
Carbon DioxideA naturally occurring gas, and also a by-product of burning fossil fuels and biomass, as well as land-use changes and other industrial processes. It is the principal anthropogenic greenhouse gas that affects the Earth’s radiative balance. It is the reference gas against which other greenhouse gases are measured and therefore has a Global Warming Potential of 1.
Carbon FootprintA calculation of the weight of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of an individual or organisation.
Carbon Sink See Sink.
Carshare DevonA web-based scheme that enables commuters to find others travelling in the same direction and arrange to share a car thus reducing travels costs, congestion and air pollution.
Central England Temperature RecordA composite data series of seasonal and annual mean temperatures expressed in degrees Celsius for central England from 1659 to 1973 originally constructed by Professor Gordon Manley but now updated by the Hadley Centre.
 CFCs See Chlorofluorocarbons.
 CH4 See Methane.
 ChlorofluorocarbonsA species of greenhouse gas covered under the 1987 Montreal Protocol and used for refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging, insulation, solvents and aerosol propellants. Since CFCs are not destroyed in the lower atmosphere, they drift into the upper atmosphere where they break down ozone. These gases are being replaced by other compounds, including hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are greenhouse gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol.
 CIA See Climate Impact Assessment.
 ClimateClimate is usually defined as the “average weather” or more rigorously as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant meteorological attributes (e.g. temperature, precipitation and wind) over a period of time. The classical period is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
 Climate ChangeClimate change refers to a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period (typically decades or longer). Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as: “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” The UNFCCC makes a distinction between “climate change” attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and “climate variability” attributable to natural causes.
Climate Change LevyThe climate change levy is a tax on the use of energy in industry, commerce and the public sector, with offsetting cuts in employers’ National Insurance Contributions and additional support for energy efficiency schemes and renewable sources of energy. The levy forms a key part of the Government’s overall Climate Change Programme.
Climate Change Projection See Climate Projection
Climate Change Scenario See Climate Scenario
Climate Change SignalObserved and simulated climate change are the sum of a forced “signal” and natural variability. The climate change signal is the forced element unobscured by the noise of natural variability.
Climate Impact AssessmentThe practice of identifying and evaluating the detrimental and beneficial consequences of climate change on natural and human systems.
 Climate ImpactsConsequences of climate change on natural and human systems.
 Climate ModelA numerical representation of the climate system based on the physical, chemical and biological properties of its components, their interactions and feedback processes, and accounting for all or some of its known properties. Coupled atmosphere/ocean/sea-ice general circulation models (AOGCMs) provide a comprehensive representation of the climate system
 Climate PredictionA climate forecast. The result of an attempt to produce a most likely description or estimate of the actual evolution of the climate in the future.
 Climate ProjectionA projection of the response of the climate system to greenhouse gas emission scenarios which are based on assumptions concerning future socio-economic and technological developments that may or may not be realized. Climate projections are therefore subject to substantial uncertainty.
 Climate ProofingActions taken to protect infrastructure, systems and processes against projected climate impacts for a period into the future.
 Climate ScenarioA plausible representation of the future climate that has been constructed for explicit use in investigating the potential consequences of anthropogenic climate change.
 Climate SystemThe climate system is the highly complex system consisting of five major components: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, the land surface and the biosphere, and the interactions between them. The climate system evolves in time under the influence of its own internal dynamics and because of external forcings such as volcanic eruptions, solar variations, and human-induced forcings such as the changing composition of the atmosphere and land-use change.
 Climate VariabilityClimate variability is the term used to describe natural climate change. The UNFCCC makes a distinction between “climate change” attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and “climate variability” attributable to natural causes.
 CO2 See Carbon Dioxide.
 CO2 EquivalentThe concentration of carbon dioxide that would cause the same amount of radiative forcing as a given mixture of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. See Global Warming Potential
Community Leadership A role of local government.
Coping RangeThe variation in climatic stimuli that a system can absorb without producing significant impacts
Corporate ManagementThe process of managing a business.
DeforestationConversion of forest to non-forest.
DEFRADepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
DeglaciationThe process that terminates an Ice Age. Deglaciation of the last Ice Age commenced about 18,000 years BP and was largely complete by 10,000 years BP.
Devon Strategic PartnershipThe Government believes that Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) are the most effective way of preparing a community strategy for an area. The DSP is Devon’s LSP. Its purpose is to improve the quality of life of people living in Devon by ensuring the work of all agencies and groups has the needs of local people at its core.
Devon Sustainable Energy NetworkA proposed network of individuals, organisations and companies to promote the development and deployment of renewable energy projects in Devon.
 Devon TravelWiseTravelWise is a national campaign which encourages people to think before they travel and suggests that they do not always need to use a car.
 DSP See Devon Strategic Partnership.
 EmissionsThe release of greenhouse gases and aerosols into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time.
 Emissions ScenarioA plausible representation of the future development of greenhouse gas emissions based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about population growth, socio-economic development and technological change.
 Emissions TradingA market-based approach to achieving environmental objectives that allows those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions below a target level to trade the excess reductions to offset emissions at another source inside or outside the country.
Energy BalanceAveraged over the globe and over longer time periods, the energy budget of the Earth’s climate system must be in balance. A perturbation of this global radiation balance, be it anthropogenic or natural, is called radiative forcing.
Energy EfficiencyThe ratio of energy output to input of a conversion process/system.
Energy RecoveryThe use of technologies to recover energy from waste e.g. burning methane produced in landfill sites to produce electricity.
England And Wales Precipitation SeriesA composite data series of seasonal and annual precipitation totals expressed in mm for England and Wales from 1766 to 1995 constructed by Professor Phil Jones and updated by the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia.
Eustatic Sea-Level ChangeA change in global average sea level brought about by an alteration to the volume of the world’s oceans. In an anthropogenic climate change context this means the response of the oceans to thermal expansion and glacial melt water as a consequence of global warming
Extreme Weather EventAn extreme weather event is an event that is rare within its statistical distribution at a particular place. Definitions of rare vary but an extreme weather event would normally be rarer than the 90th percentile i.e. a 1 in 10 year event for an annual series.
Fossil FuelsCarbon-based fuels from fossil carbon deposits, including coal, oil, and natural gas.
GCMGeneral Circulation Model. See Climate Model.
General Circulation ModelSee Climate Model.
Global (Average) Surface TemperatureThe global (average) surface temperature is the area-weighted global average of the sea surface temperature over the oceans and the surface air temperature over land at
1.5 m above the ground.
Global Energy BalanceSee Energy Balance.
Global WarmingThe progressive and gradual rise of the earth’s surface temperature caused by the greenhouse effect and responsible for changes in the climate. Global warming has occurred throughout the history of the Earth as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often used to refer to the warming that is taking place now as a result of the increased emissions of greenhouse gases as a consequence of human activity.
Global Warming PotentialAn index describing the radiative characteristics of greenhouse gases that represents their relative effectiveness in absorbing outgoing infrared radiation. This index is expressed relative to carbon dioxide which has a global warming potential of 1. Methane has a GWP of 23 and nitrous oxide 296.
GOSWGovernment Office of the South West.
Green ElectricityA term used to describe electricity generated from renewable sources.
Greenhouse EffectA popular term used to describe the role of water vapour, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases in keeping the Earth’s surface warmer than it would be otherwise. These “radiatively active” gases are relatively transparent to incoming shortwave radiation, but are relatively opaque to outgoing longwave radiation. The latter radiation, which would otherwise escape to space, is trapped by these gases within the lower levels of the atmosphere. The subsequent reradiation of some of the energy back to the surface maintains surface temperatures higher than they would be if the gases were absent.
Greenhouse GasGreenhouse gases absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of infrared radiation emitted by the Earth. This property causes the greenhouse effect. Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3) are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. In addition to CO2, N2O, and CH4, the Kyoto Protocol deals with sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
Greenhouse Gas ConcentrationsThe volume of specific well-mixed greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. For example the pre-Industrial level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). This has now risen to 380 ppm and continues to increase by up to 2 ppm per year.
Gulf StreamThe oceanic system of currents that dominate the western and northern Atlantic Ocean consisting of the Florida current, which flows through the Florida Straits northwards; the Gulf Stream, which begins around Cape Hatteras and flows northeast off the continental slope into the North Atlantic; and the North Atlantic Drift, which begins around the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and continues across the Atlantic towards the British Isles.
gwGigawatt – a billion (109) watts.
GWPSee Global Warming Potential.
Hadley CentreA vital component of the Met Office, the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research was opened in 1990, when the Met Office was still in residence at its previous headquarters in Bracknell. Now working out of the new state-of-the-art headquarters at Exeter, the centre continues to produce world-class guidance on the science of climate change and to provide a focus in the UK for the scientific issues associated with climate change.
HFCsSee Hydrofluorocarbons.
HydrofluorocarbonsAmong the six greenhouse gases addressed by the Kyoto Protocol. HFCs are produced commercially as a substitute for chlorofluorocarbons. HFCs largely are used in refrigeration and semiconductor manufacturing. Their Global Warming Potentials range from 1,300 to 11,700.
Hydrological CycleThe movement of water from ocean by evaporation, to atmosphere, to land by precipitation and back, via river flow, to ocean.
Ice AgeAny period in the Earth’s history during which high latitude ice sheets expand considerably and surface temperatures in the temperate latitudes are lowered. The last Ice Age concluded about 10,000 years BP.
Infrared RadiationRadiation emitted by the Earth. It is also known as terrestrial or long-wave radiation. Infrared radiation has a distinctive range of wavelengths (“spectrum”) longer than the wavelength of the red colour in the visible part of the spectrum. The spectrum of infrared radiation is distinct from that of solar or short-wave radiation because of the difference in temperature between the Sun and the Earth system.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeA panel set up by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988, in recognition of potential global climate change. The panel’s role is to assess the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information needed to understand the risk of human-induced climate change. IPCC does not carry out research or monitor climate related data, but bases its assessments mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature.
IPCCSee Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Isostatic AdjustmentIsostasy refers to the way in which the Earth’s crust responds to changes in surface loads such as land ice, ocean mass, sedimentation, erosion or mountain building. Vertical isostatic adjustment results in order to balance the new load. This is happening in the South West of England which is subsiding at a rate of up to 1mm per year following the removal of the ice sheets from Scotland.
Kyoto ProtocolThe Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It contains legally binding commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Countries included in Annex B of the Protocol (most countries in the OECD, and countries with economies in transition) agreed to reduce their anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs and SF6) by at least 5% below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012. The Kyoto Protocol entered into force following agreement by the Russian Duma in September 2004.
LandfillA private or municipal site where non-hazardous solid or municipal waste is buried.
Landfill GasA by-product from the digestion of anaerobic bacteria of decaying matter in waste deposited in landfill sites. The gas is predominantly methane (65%) together with carbon dioxide (35%) and trace concentrations of a range of vapours and gases.
Low Carbon EconomyThe aspirational goal for the UK economy of the 2003 Energy White Paper.
 LTPLocal Transport Plan.
Mean Annual TemperatureThe average temperature of a location over a year. It is calculated by averaging all the daily maximum and minimum temperatures throughout a calendar year.
Melt WaterThe water resulting from the melting of a glacier or ice sheet.
Met OfficeFounded in 1854 the Met Office is now located in Exeter. It is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence and is responsible for the provision of a wide range of meteorological services both nationally and internationally.
MethaneA greenhouse gas produced through anaerobic decomposition of waste in landfills, animal digestion, decomposition of animal wastes, production and distribution of natural gas and oil, coal production, and incomplete fossil-fuel combustion. Methane is one of the six greenhouse gases to be mitigated under the Kyoto Protocol.
MitigationAn anthropogenic intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.
mwMegawatt – a million (106) watts.
N2OSee Nitrous Oxide.
NAOSee North Atlantic Oscillation.
Natural VariabilityClimate varies naturally because in a system of components with very different response times and non-linear interactions, the components are never in equilibrium and are constantly varying. An example of such internal climate variation is the El Niño- Southern Oscillation (ENSO), resulting from the interaction between atmosphere and ocean in the tropical Pacific.
Nitrous OxideA powerful greenhouse gas emitted through soil cultivation practices, especially the use of commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil-fuel combustion, nitric acid production and biomass burning. One of the six greenhouse gases to be mitigated under the Kyoto Protocol.
No Regrets MeasureSee No-regrets Policy.
No-Regrets PolicyOne that would generate net social benefits whether or not there is climate change. No- regrets opportunities for greenhouse gas emissions reduction are defined as those options whose benefits such as reduced energy costs and reduced emissions of local/regional pollutants equal or exceed their costs to society, excluding the benefits of avoided climate change.
North Atlantic OscillationOn average, a westerly current, between the Azores high pressure and the Icelandic low pressure carries cyclones and associated frontal systems towards Europe. The North Atlantic Oscillation is a measure of the gradient of sea level pressure between these two pressure centres. The pressure difference fluctuates on time scales of days to decades, and can be reversed at times. However, when it has a high value (i.e. in its positive phase) there is strong zonal flow and strengthened mid latitude westerly winds in the North Atlantic. It is the dominant mode of winter climate variability in the region.
Nottingham Declaration on Climate ChangeThe Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change was launched on 25th October 2000. It was signed by Devon County Council on 14th July 2004. In becoming a signatory to the declaration Local Authorities commit themselves to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and to develop an action plan with local communities to address the causes and impacts of climate change.
Ocean Conveyor BeltThe theoretical route by which water circulates around the globe driven by wind and the thermohaline circulation.
PerfluorocarbonsAmong the six greenhouse gases to be abated under the Kyoto Protocol. These are by- products of aluminium smelting and uranium enrichment. They also replace chlorofluorocarbons in manufacturing semiconductors. The Global Warming Potential of PFCs is 6,500–9,200 times that of carbon dioxide.
PFCsSee Perfluorocarbons.
Precautionary Approach/PrincipleA principle which states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation. This approach is promoted by the Framework Convention on Climate Change to help “achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous man– made interference with the climate system.”
ProxyA proxy climate indicator is a local record that is interpreted, using physical and biophysical principles, to represent climate-related variations back in time. Climate data derived in this way are referred to as proxy data. Examples of proxies are tree ring records, characteristics of corals, stalactites and various data derived from ice cores.
Proxy DataSee Proxy.
PSA.Public Service Agreement. A contract between Local Authorities and Government.
RCMRegional Climate Model. See Climate Model.
RegenSWRegenSW is the renewable energy agency for the South West of England. It acts as a catalyst for the development of renewable energy in the South West, aiming to increase the amount of high quality renewable energy projects on the ground and to maximise the social, economic and environmental benefits to the South West from the growth of the sustainable energy industry.
Renewable EnergyEnergy sources that are sustainable, and include non-carbon technologies such as solar energy, hydropower, wind, wave and tidal as well as carbon-neutral technologies such as biomass.
RenewablesSee Renewable Energy.
Renewables ObligationThe obligation placed on licensed electricity suppliers by Government to deliver a specified amount of their electricity from eligible renewable sources.
Renewables Obligation CertificatesEligible renewable generators receive Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) for each MWh of electricity generated. These certificates can then be sold to suppliers.
REvision 2010REvision 2010 was a project funded by the Government Office for the South West in partnership with the SW Regional Assembly to identify and adopt sub-regional renewable electricity targets for 2010.
ROCsSee Renewables Obligation Certificates.
Sea Level RiseAn increase in the mean level of the ocean. Eustatic sea-level rise is a change in global average sea level brought about by an alteration to the volume of the world ocean. Relative sea-level rise occurs where there is a net increase in the level of the ocean relative to local land movements.
Seasonality RatioThe seasonality of rainfall as measured by the changing ratio of winter to summer rainfall.
SensitivitySensitivity is the degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate-related stimuli. The effect may be direct (e.g., a change in crop yield in response to a change in temperature) or indirect (e.g., damages caused by an increase in the frequency of coastal flooding due to sea-level rise).
SequestrationThe process of increasing the carbon content of a carbon reservoir other than the atmosphere. Biological approaches to sequestration include direct removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through land-use change, afforestation, reforestation and practices that enhance soil carbon in agriculture. Physical approaches include separation and disposal of carbon dioxide from flue gases and long-term storage underground.
Service ProvisionA role of local government.
SF6See Sulphur Hexafluoride.
SinkAny process, activity or mechanism that removes a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
Social CostThe social cost of an activity includes the value of all the resources used in its provision. Some of these are priced and others are not. Non-priced resources are referred to as externalities. It is the sum of the costs of these externalities and the priced resources that makes up the social cost.
Socio-Economic FactorsThose factors concerning demography and economic development that are likely to impact on the production of greenhouse gases.
Solar RadiationRadiation emitted by the Sun. It is also referred to as short-wave radiation.
South West ForestSouth West Forest is an independent, non-commercial partnership responsible for the management and development of 300,000 hectares of woodland broadly bounded by Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor.
StabilizationThe achievement of stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of one or more greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide or a CO2-equivalent basket of greenhouse gases).
Storm SurgeThe temporary increase, at a particular locality, in the height of the sea due to extreme meteorological conditions (low atmospheric pressure and/or strong winds). The storm surge is defined as being the excess above the level expected from the tidal variation alone at that time and place.
Storm TrackThe track which Atlantic cyclones take across the North Atlantic towards the British Isles. See North Atlantic Oscillation.
StorylineA short narrative description of the factors that describe the socio-economic factors that produce greenhouse gas emissions scenarios used in modelling anthropogenic climate change.
SubsidenceThe sudden sinking or gradual downward settling of the Earth’s surface with little or no horizontal motion.
Sulphur HexafluorideOne of the six greenhouse gases to be curbed under the Kyoto Protocol. It is largely used in heavy industry to insulate high-voltage equipment and to assist in the manufacturing of cable-cooling systems. Its Global Warming Potential is 23,900.
SustainabilityThe ability to meet the objectives of sustainable development.
Sustainable DevelopmentDevelopment that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
SWCCIPSouth West Climate Change Impacts Partnership.
SWRASouth West Regional Assembly.
SWRDASouth West Regional Development Agency.
Techno-centricAn economic development path that is based on the widespread deployment and application of technology to resolve issues such as climate change. The opposite of eco- centric.
Terrestrial RadiationSee Infrared Radiation.
Thermal ExpansionIn connection with sea level, this refers to the increase in volume that results from warming water. A warming of the ocean leads to an expansion of the ocean volume and hence an increase in sea level.
Thermal Growing SeasonThe length of the thermal growing season is defined as the longest period within a year that satisfies the twin requirements of (i) beginning at the start of a period when daily- average temperature is greater than 5.5°C for five consecutive days, and (ii) ending on the day prior to the first subsequent period when daily-average temperature is less then 5.5°C for five consecutive days.
Thermohaline CirculationLarge-scale density-driven circulation in the ocean caused by differences in temperature and salinity. In the North Atlantic the thermohaline circulation consists of warm surface water flowing northward and cold deepwater flowing southward, resulting in a net poleward transport of heat.
TroposphereThe lowest part of the atmosphere from the surface to about 10 km in altitude in mid- latitudes (ranging from 9 km in high latitudes to 16 km in the tropics on average) where clouds and “weather” phenomena occur.
UKCIPUK Climate Impacts Programme.
UncertaintyAn expression of the degree to which the future state of the climate system is unknown. Uncertainty results from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. It has many different sources from quantifiable errors in data to uncertain projections of human behaviour.
UNFCCCSee United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
United Nations Framework Convention On Climate ChangeThe Convention was adopted on 9 May 1992 in New York and signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro by more than 150 countries and the European Community. Its ultimate objective is the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Its aim was to return greenhouse gas emissions not controlled by the Montreal Protocol to 1990 levels by the year 2000. The Convention entered into force in March 1994.
VulnerabilityThe degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.
WeatherThe state of the atmosphere at a specific time and with respect to its effect on life and human activities. It is the short term variations of the atmosphere, as opposed to the long term, or climatic, changes.