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Carbon


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Afforestation
Could be a vital way to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels- planting more forests, mangroves and wetlands which sequester high levels of carbon.
Adaptation
Changing lifestyles to try and cope with, rather than stop climate change.
Albedo Feedback
A positive feedback where ice melting means darker surfaces absorb more energy, areas becomes warmer which means more ice melts and so on.
Biofuel
A fuel derived immediately from living matter, such as agricultural crops, forestry or fishery products, and various forms of waste (municipal, food shops, catering, etc.). A distinction is made between primary and secondary biofuels:
Biogeochemical
The transfer of elements and compounds, such as carbon, between living organisms and the physical environment through chemical processes that create new compounds and elements in the atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere.
Biological processes /pump
The processes of capturing and transferring carbon through living things, plants, animals and fish.
Biomass
Organic matter used as a fuel, especially in power stations for the generation of electricity.
Carbon capture technology
Capturing CO2 directly from the air or removing carbon from exhausts and chimneys. Carbon can be either buried and manufactured into other resources.
Carbon cycle
The biogeochemical cycle by which carbon moves from one sphere to another. It acts as a closed system made up of linked subsystems that have inputs, throughputs and outputs.
Carbon fluxes
The movement or transfer of carbon, in different compounds, between stores in atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere.
Carbon-neutral
A process or activity that results in no net release of carbon into the atmosphere, perhaps through using renewable energy or planting trees.
Carbon pump
The process within the oceans that store and circulate carbon.
Carbon pathway
The steps involved in moving carbon to a store where it is fixed.
Carbon sink
A natural area that removes carbon from the atmosphere e.g forests, wetlands, ocean etc.
Carbon store
As part of the natural carbon cycle carbon accumulates in places within the cycle, often for a very long time period. These stores include vegetation, atmosphere, oceans and rock.
Combustion
The process of burning matter which releases trapped carbon into the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels transfers carbon from geological stores in to atmosphere.
Cultural Services
The value of ecosystems to improving well being and tourism.
Decompose
The rotting of dead matter which can return carbon into the soil.
Deforestation
Clearing forest for farming or other resources. This is a key factor in influencing the increase of atmospheric carbon.
Ecosystem productivity
The use, or fixing, of solar energy by plants to increase their biomass (primary productivity) through photosynthesis, which supports the growth of herbivores (secondary productivity) and carnivores (tertiary productivity).
Ecosystem Services
A way to value natural systems.
Energy mix
The range of energy sources used by a country or region, from non-renewable ones such as fossil fuels to renewables such as wind energy. Depends on availability of resources, costs or production, development, climate and environmental priorities.
Energy pathway
The route by which an energy type is transferred from the production area to the consumption area, such as by pipeline or shipping route.
Energy security
A situation where there is a secure and affordable supply of energy to meet the needs of consumers (people and businesses).
Enhanced greenhouse effect
The intensification of the natural greenhouse effect by human activities, primarily through fossil fuel combustion and deforestation, causing global warming.
Feedback mechanisms
Can be positive where one change leads to another which increases the impact – ice melts, land is darker, absorbs more heat, more ice melts OR negative which reaches back to an equilibrium
Fluxes
Movements of carbon; the rate of flow between stores.
Fracking
Extracting shale oil and gas by drilling into rock and forcing liquid down at high pressure to crack rocks apart. Made viable by increasing gas prices and improved technology.
Geological processes
The capture and transferring of carbon through non-living things such as weathering, outgassing and sediment settling.
Geo—engineering
Large scale attempts to reduce climate change such as orbiting solar shields to reflect solar insolation.
Greenhouse Effect
The natural process where thermal radiation is trapped by atmospheric gases such as CO2, water vapour and methane which helps to warm the planet and make it habitable.
Insolation
Incoming solar radiation which heats the ground and turns into thermal heat energy.
Kuznets Curve
A graph which shows theoretical relationship between levels of economic development and environmental quality – as countries fully develop environmental awareness increases.
Mitigation
Trying to reduce levels of GHG in the atmosphere to stop further increase in climate change. Can either be by reducing emissions or increasing capture and sequestration.
Net primary productivity NPP
The amount of organic matter that is produced by vegetation – this varies around the world due to climate and is vital in regulating atmospheric carbon. Link to photosynthesis.
Ocean acidification
The decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Out-gassing
The release of a gas that was dissolved or stored due to changes in heat or pressure, for example carbon is released by metamorphic activity at plate boundaries or hot spots.
Peatlands
Often found in cooler, wet areas. Areas of very thick, carbon rich soil where plants decompose with little oxygen. Under great threat due to erosion and climate change – leading to a positive feedback.
Permafrost
Permanently frozen ground, often in the Arctic Circle. Frozen land contains a lot of carbon and methane, as it melts this is released into the atmosphere leading to positive feedback.
Petagrams (Pg) or Gigatonnes (Gt)
The units used to measure carbon; one petagram (Pg), also known as a gigatonne (Gt), is equal to a trillion kilograms, or 1 billion tonnes.
Photosynthesis
The process by which plants and phytoplankton (primary producers) use sunlight to extract carbon from water and the atmosphere.
Phytoplankton
Minute plants, such as cyanobacteria, found in upper layers of oceans, which fix large amounts of carbon through photosynthesis and form the base of aquatic food webs.
Players
Individuals, groups, or organisations with an involvement or interest in a particular issue.
Polluter Pays Principle
The idea that whoever generates pollution should pay the costs of cleaning it up, either through taxes or fines or being forced to use technology to prevent its emission in the first place.
Primary energy
The main original source of energy before conversion in alternative forms, such as coal and crude oil.
Primary producers
Living organisms that produce their own food, using sunlight, carbon dioxide, water and other chemicals in the process of photosynthesis; they are also sometimes referred to as autotrophs.
Provisioning services
The goods that can be obtained from ecosystems – food, medicine, building supplies, fuel
Regulating Services
The way ecosystems can help to regulate the environment – e.g. forests can remove CO2, mangroves can grow with sea level change to act as coastal defence.
Renewable Energy
Continuous resources which will not run out such as solar, wind, wood and wave/tidal energy.
Respiration
Similar to breathing – animals take in oxygen and breathe out CO2, plants take in CO2 and release oxygen.
Secondary energy
A convenient and more usable energy source, such as electricity, that has been created from a primary energy source.
Sediment settling
Where plants and dead animals fall to the ocean floor to be compressed which stores carbon within the rocks.
Sequestration
Processes by which carbon is removed from the atmosphere and stored for a long period of time, for example by plants and soil in nature, or through carbon capture and storage (CCS) from power stations.
Soil
Soils store 2-3 times more carbon than both the atmosphere and vegetation capturing carbon from the atmosphere and dead organic matter.
Supporting Services
The ways that ecosystems support themselves through nutrient cycling, food chains and feedback mechanisms.
Tar Sands
Extracting oil from bitumen sands, uses a lot of energy to create oil and can cause massive environmental issues.
Thermohaline circulation
Global system of surface water and deep water ocean currents, driven by differences in temperature and salinity (salt content). This can help circulate and store / release carbon to other areas.
Tipping point
A point where change becomes irreversible and moves from one state to another. Often involve feedback mechanisms.