Lima COP20 | CMP 10 / General / Concept glossary
21-07-2014 General

Concept glossary



Adaptation – The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects

Adaptive capacity, Adaptability - The ability of systems, institutions, humans, and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences.

Anthropogenic – A product of human activity.




Climate Change – Climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings such as modulations of the solar cycles, volcanic eruptions and persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use. Note that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its Article 1, 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 thus makes a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and climate variability attributable to natural causes. See also Climate change commitment.




Anthropogenic Emissions - Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), aerosols, and precursors of a GHG or aerosol caused by human activities. These activities include the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land use changes (LUC), livestock production, fertilization, waste management, and industrial processes.




Global Warming – Global warming refers to the gradual increase, observed or projected, in global surface temperature, as one of the consequences of radiative forcing caused by anthropogenic emissions.


Greenhouse effect – The infrared radiative effect of all infrared‐absorbing constituents in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases (GHGs), clouds, and (to a small extent) aerosols absorb terrestrial radiation emitted by the earth’s surface and elsewhere in the atmosphere. These substances emit infrared radiation in all directions, but, everything else being equal, the net amount emitted to space is normally less than would have been emitted in the absence of these absorbers because of the decline of temperature with altitude in the troposphere and the consequent weakening of emission. An increase in the concentration of GHGs increases the magnitude of this effect; the difference is sometimes called the enhanced greenhouse effect. The change in a GHG concentration because of anthropogenic emissions contributes to an instantaneous radiative forcing. Surface temperature and troposphere warm in response to this forcing, gradually restoring the radiative balance at the top of the atmosphere.


Greenhouse gas – Greenhouse gases (GHG) are those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of terrestrial radiation emitted by the earth’s surface, the atmosphere itself, and by clouds. This property causes the greenhouse effect. Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and ozone (O3) are the primary GHGs in the earth’s atmosphere. Moreover, there are a number of entirely human‐made GHGs in the atmosphere, such as the halocarbons and other chlorine‐ and bromine‐containing substances, dealt with under the Montreal Protocol. Beside CO2, N2O and CH4, the Kyoto Protocol deals with the GHGs sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).     




Mitigation (of climate change) - A human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs).




Resilience - The capacity of a social‐ecological system to cope with a hazardous event or disturbance, responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain its essential function, identity, and structure, while also maintaining the capacity for adaptation, learning, and transformation (Arctic Council, 2013).




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