Action, such as building sea-walls, aimed at coping with the amount of Climate Change which will happen. As opposed to Mitigation, which is action to try and slow or minimise the amount of Climate Change which will happen.
Another name for "Transition Fund". Instead of allocating all the certificates (or money from an upstream auction) to people, some might be held back and used as a Transition Fund. This would help to pay for communal projects to help people adapt to climate change - projects such as sea walls can only be undertaken by people clubbing together, not by individuals. Schemes such as Kyoto 2 advocate spending all the money in this way, others like C&D advocate none - there is clearly room for compromise.
A jargon-word for “man-made”.
A fixed limit on the total amount of CO2 which is allowed to be emitted (say for a nation, in a given year). A cap is a hard target, which should have a mechanism in place to ensure that it is achieved; it is more than just a “target”. A cap could also apply to any other greenhouse gas.
Cap & Cashback
Another name for Cap & Dividend.
Cap & Dividend
Effectively the same as Cap & Share (although see 'Classic Cap & Share' below). Cap & Dividend has been advocated as a national system for the USA by Peter Barnes and others. See the Alternatives section of this website.
Cap & Prosper
A system very similar to Cap & Dividend.
Cap & Rebate
Another name for Cap & Dividend.
Cap & Share
What this website is about! A method of capping carbon which is fair, simple, practical, effective, cheap, easy and empowering - an alternative to taxes or 'rations'.
In this website, Cap & Share usually means a global system, equivalent to Cap & Dividend applied globally. See also 'Classic Cap & Share' below.
Cap & Trade
The general name for systems which cap the total amount of carbon emissions by issuing permits for this amount, and then allow trading in these permits. In practice this refers to downstream systems: 'carbon markets' and 'emissions trading'.
Cap Global Carbon
An initiative calling for the establishment of a global trust to administer a global Cap & Dividend system (that is, Cap & Share).
A chemical element, present in most of the molecules important for life. Often used as shorthand for “carbon dioxide”, as in phrases like “carbon emissions” and “carbon budget”. When measuring CO2 emissions most people these days simply use units like tonnes of CO2, but in older literature people only counted the weight of the carbon in the carbon dioxide. It takes 3.7 tonnes of CO2 to contain 1 tonne of carbon (the rest is the weight of the oxygen).
A series of caps for carbon emissions, year by year into the future.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS)
Technology which captures CO2 from (say) a power station, before it escapes into the atmosphere, and then seeks to store it (very long-term) in geological reservoirs underground.
A committee, independent of government, which would control a scheme such as C&S by setting the carbon budget. It would be like the Monetary Policy Committee which sets UK interest rates. (See “Committee on Climate Change”).
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
A gas which is chemically made up of Carbon and Oxygen (in the same way that water or H2O is made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen). CO2 is given off by burning fossil fuels, and is a greenhouse gas. We also breathe out CO2 (given off when we use the oxygen we breathe in to “burn” food); and plants use CO2 in photosynthesis and give off oxygen.
Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e)
A method of adding together the effects of various greenhouse gases (such as methane, nitrous oxide), not just CO2. This is done using the gases’ Global Warming Potentials (which measure how powerful and long-lived the gases are, compared with CO2). If the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere now was, say, 380 ppm CO2, but adding in the other greenhouse gases gives 430 ppm CO2e, it means that all these gases together would be creating as much greenhouse warming as if there was 430 ppm of CO2 alone.
Another name for the total CO2 emissions (usually measured over a year) for a country, a firm, a household or a person.
Putting a price on fossil fuels, over and above what they cost now, in order to reduce their usage and so cut emissions. Often associated with a carbon tax, but clearly any system like Cap & Share, or Fee and Dividend, or carbon trading, establishes a carbon price also.
A tax on fossil fuels.
In the context of 'Classic Cap & Share', “certificate” refers to the certificates issued under C&S to each adult representing their equal shares in the overall carbon footprint. For a global scheme like C&S this refers to everyone's equal share of the global carbon footprint; for a national scheme people would share in their nation's carbon footprint.
'Classic Cap & Share'
The original Feasta proposal. This is the same as Cap & Share, except that you get a certificate for your share of the world's carbon footprint, instead of the money from auctioning these shares off to fossil fuel suppliers. See the Alternatives section of this website.
Climate is like weather, but averaged out over time and over a region. So we might have a temperate climate in Britain (as opposed to a tropical climate or an arctic climate), which tells us what the weather is like “on average”. The weather itself changes from day to day.
A change in the climate of the earth (as opposed to the day to day changes in weather). Climate has changed in the past history of the Earth, but has been relatively stable for the last 10,000 years (since the end of the last ice age). “Climate change” usually refers to the manmade change being kicked off by mankind’s actions in burning fossil fuels, deforestation, etc. Climate change is more than global warming: it includes sea level rise, increases in storms, changes in rainfall leading to droughts, etc.
Since the climate system is so complicated and interconnected, it has many tipping points and is (in a technical sense) a chaotic system - small perturbations can lead to wildly unpredictable consequences. The situation we are in danger of producing is not a smooth, steady increase in temperature but a set of wildly fluctuating changes in temperatures, ocean currents, storms and rainfall patterns called “Climate Chaos”. (Hence the name of the UK campaigning group “Stop Climate Chaos”). See also 'Global Weirding'.
Climate Change Act
In the UK, an Act of Parliament which sets up a Committee on Climate Change to set carbon budgets to meet emissions reduction target (currently set at a 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, measured from 1990 levels).
Committee on Climate Change
A committee, set up in the UK in 2008, to set carbon budgets. In time this might evolve into a fully fledged Carbon Committee also overseeing effective mechanisms for ensuring these targets are met.
How much of a greenhouse gas there is in the atmosphere, measured in units like parts per million (ppm).
Contraction & Convergence
One of the earliest attempts to develop a framework for apportioning emissions between countries. There is a global emissions cap which reduces over time (“contraction”), and countries’ emissions entitlements within this cap converge over time to equal (per capita) shares (“convergence”).
The 'official' name for the climate talks in Paris in December 2015. COP stands for 'Conference of the Parties' and the 21 indicates that the Paris talks were only the latest in a long sequence of conferences. (See Copenhagen talks).
The talks in Copenhagen (Denmark) in December 2009 which were meant to negotiate a successor to Kyoto. Largely seen as a failure but talks continue; the talks held in Paris in 2015 were another major landmark (the next set of talks will be in Morocco).
The emissions (for example of CO2) added up over time. Most CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long time (around 100 years) so the amount in the atmosphere at present in the result of our cumulative emissions over the last 100 years. (See 'Historic emissions').
Fossil fuels are introduced into the economy (by importing them or extracting them from the ground), then they are bought and sold, and then eventually burnt for energy, at which point the emissions occur. Downstream systems try to control emissions by focussing on the final part of this process, by limiting the fossil fuels allowed for the end-users. (See "Upstream").
Earth Atmosphere Trust
A proposed global body to oversee global coordination of efforts to limit carbon emissions, possibly by linking carbon markets, and/or to act on behalf of mankind to recoup 'damage' costs from major emitters or fossil fuel companies.
In this context, release into the atmosphere of a greenhouse gas.
Emissions Trading Scheme
A system where (mostly large) companies buy and sell emissions permits. The EU ETS is an example.
Equal Per Capita Allocation (EPCA)
Giving everyone (in practice, every adult) equal shares (of certificates, or of auction revenue). This is the simplest system of having a “fair” allocation. But it could be adapted to make it “fairer” (if more complex), e.g. by giving partial shares to children, or by giving extra help to rural communities or people in “fuel poverty”.
The European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme. The first stage had serious flaws (lax caps through too many permits being issued, free allocation windfalls to large utility companies, partial coverage only of the economy, leaks through dubious CDM projects) but these shortcomings are now widely accepted and are being addressed in the next stage.
Fee & Dividend
Essentially a carbon tax, but with the revenue be distributed back to the population as a 'dividend'. If a carbon fee is 'high enough' it becomes equivalent to a cap. Fee & Dividend has been proposed for the USA and elsewhere (for example by the Citizens' Climate Lobby, and by James Hansen in the book 'Storms of my Grandchildren'), and aims to sidestep the bipartisan divide in US politics.
A "loop" in which something affects something else, which then loops back and affects the first thing, etc. For example if the Earth heats up and the ice caps start melting, there is less white ice to reflect the sun's heat into space, and more dark sea to absorb the sun's heat. This means the Earth heats up further, which melts more of the ice cap, and so on. (See also "tipping point").
Coal, oil and gas: the fuels which we get from the ground and which originated from ancient plants. Fossil fuels contain carbon which has been stored in the Earth for millions of years, and which these plants captured from the air by photosynthesis. Hence burning fossil fuels is sometimes descibed as living off "ancient sunlight".
Fossil Fuel Supplier
As used in this website, a Fossil Fuel Supplier is a company which introduces fossil fuels into the economy. This means it imports the oil, coal or gas, or digs them up from the ground. Once in the economy, the fossil fuels are sold and re-sold until eventually they are burnt for energy (at which point the emissions happen). Sometimes called primary energy supplier, although this is not quite the same.
A name given to various ideas which might attempt to change the climate by intervening directly - ideas range from seeding the atmosphere with sulphur, to launching sun-shades into space. Most are seen as last-ditch attempts to save the earth if everything else has failed. But all have disadvantages or only tackle part of the problem.
This phrase usually means the warming of the Earth’s surface caused by mankind’s activities, over and above any natural effects. It is loosely used to mean the same as as “climate change” although the latter includes other things such as sea level changes and increases in storms.
Global Warming Potential
A way of comparing greenhouse gases, by relating them to carbon dioxide. The GWP takes into account how powerful the gas is at trapping heat, and how long it stays in the atmosphere before being absorbed.
'Global Warming' sounds as if it might be a gradual change, but since the climate system is so complicated and interconnected, small perturbations can lead to wildly unpredictable consequences. The wildly fluctuating changes in temperatures, ocean currents, storms and rainfall patterns are called 'Global Weirding' - people are noticing 'weird' weather patterns - and could lead to full-blown “Climate Chaos”.
Greenhouse Development Rights (GDRs)
An elaboration of Contraction & Convergence, which takes into account historical “responsibility” for cumulative emissions, and also specifically takes into account inequalities within countries.
The mechanism by which greenhouse gases cause global warming by trapping heat (and the reason why they are called “greenhouse gases”). See the Climate FAQ for an explanation.
A gas that cause the greenhouse effect. The most important ones are water vapour and carbon dioxide. Others are methane, nitrous oxide and HFCs.
Most CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long time (around 100 years) so the amount in the atmosphere at present in the result of our cumulative emissions over the last 100 years. If you want to look at 'who's causing global warming' on a country-by-country basis, it seems only fair to look at cumulative emissions of industrialised countries, rather than just the current emissions now.
Chemicals used in some industries, which are powerful greenhouse gases.
Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are pledges by nations in the run-up to the Paris talks. The idea is that countries abide by these pledges and that this boosts confidence for further strengthening of climate agreements.
Short for the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement which was a (symbolic, but not very effective) first step in trying to control the world’s carbon emissions. It officially ran out in 2012.
One of a number of schemes which have been proposed as a successor to Kyoto. See the Alternatives section of this website.
An economy which produces very little in the way of carbon emissions. This does NOT mean a low-energy economy (or “going back to living in caves”) - there might be fairly high energy use if renewable sources of energy can be developed. In the short term, however, it is likely that in the developed world we are likely to have to change to a world where we have a lower standard of living (measured in terms like GDP) - but quite possibly a higher quality of life.
A powerful greenhouse gas (emitted by cattle and rice cultivation).
Action to try and slow or minimise the amount of Climate Change which will happen. As opposed to Adaptation, which is action (such as building sea-walls) to cope with the amount of Climate Change which will happen.
A powerful greenhouse gas, released by fertilisers.
A form of oxygen (where 3 oxygen atoms come together to form an oxygen molecule, instead of the usual 2). Ozone is a greenhouse gas in the lower atmosphere but the Ozone Layer in the upper atmosphere protects the Earth’s surface from harmful radiation.
The “hole” in the ozone layer which was discovered over Antarctica and prompted the Montreal Protocol to reduce and phase out CFCs. This is a separate environmental problem, although is is often confused with global warming.
The agreement negotiated at the climate talks in Paris in December 2015. A hugely symbolic and confidence-boosting step, reaffirming all nations' determination to achieve the 'two degrees' goal, but falling far short of a treaty to actually ensure that this happens.
The climate negotiations held in Paris in 2015 (see COP21) as a follow-up to the talks in Copenhagen in December 2009.
Parts per million (ppm)
The units usually used for measuring the concentration of a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. (The concentrations of some very powerful greenhouse gases like HFCs are sometimes given in ppb - parts per billion - where 1000 ppb = 1 ppm).
In the context of Cap & Share, a permit required by a fossil fuel supplier before they can bring in fossil fuels to the economy (and hence cause emissions somewhere down the line when that fuel is burnt).
Personal Carbon Trading (PCT),
Personal Carbon Allowances (PCAs)
A downstream system where individuals in the population (often just the adults) have carbon allowances (or rations), and can trade in these allowances (buying extra carbon allowances or selling any surplus). See the Alternatives section of this website.
Pollution Allocation Permit (PAP)
Another name for “permit”.
Jargon for “what happens after the Kyoto protocol runs out”. So far, no successor agreement has been negotiated, but this is somewhat overshadowed by efforts to negotiate a new treaty at the 2015 Paris talks.
Parts per million.
Parts per million by volume. In practice, this is the same as ppm, since the ppm figures usually quoted are ppmv ones. (Technically there are alternative ways of measuring it).
Giving money back to the population (e.g. the money raised in an auction of permits). This money comes from fossil fuel suppliers, who probably pass on that cost in higher energy prices, so really the money comes from the population in the first place. Rebating is thus just giving it back, rather than spending it on something else on the public’s behalf.
Recycling (of tax)
More or less the same as rebating. You might see phrases such as “upstream auction with epca recycling” which means that the auction revenues are given back to the population on an epca (equal per capita allocation, i.e. everyone gets an equal share) basis.
Renewable energy sources (e.g. wind, solar, tidal) are those which do not run out, unlike fossil fuels which are using up a fixed (if large) supply stored in the Earth. Importantly, renewables also cause little or no greenhouse gas emissions (they do cause some, e.g. in the manufacture of the machinery).
A scheme which could work equally well at various levels, for example nationally (in a single country), regionally (e.g. in a bloc like NAFTA or the EU) or globally.
Capturing carbon and storing it in (very long-term) in geological reservoirs underground. The carbon may be captured from (say) a power station, before it escapes into the atmosphere, or we may seek to capture carbon which is already in the atmosphere. The means to do this may be high-tech (e.g. using a process developed by Lackner and described in the book “Fixing Climate” by Wallace Broecker and Robert Kunzig) or low-tech (e.g. using biochar, as described in the book “Ten Technologies to Save the Planet” by Chris Goodall).
The organisation that would run a system like Cap & Dividend. Cap & Dividend used to be known as “The Sky Trust scheme”.
A point where something suddenly takes off of its own accord, and becomes hard to stop. Suppose you are pushing a car up a hill. This is hard work, and if you stop, the car wants to roll back. But if you go over the brow of the hill, this is a tipping point. The car wants to run away from you, and the more it does, the faster it goes. It gets faster by its own accord, and you may well not be able to stop it.
Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs)
A system of Personal Carbon Trading. See the Alternatives section of this website.
A posh name for a graph showing emissions over time, or a series of caps (for different years) over time. Since CO2 remains in the atmosphere for a long time, the amount in the atmosphere depends on cumulative emissions over time (which is equivalent to the area under the trajectory curve).
Another name for "Adaptation Fund". Instead of allocating all the auction money (or certificates) to people, some might be held back and used as a Transition Fund. This would help to pay for communal projects to help people adapt to climate change - projects such as sea walls can only be undertaken by people clubbing together, not by individuals. Schemes such as Kyoto 2 advocate spending all the money in this way, others like Cap & Dividend advocate none - there is clearly room for compromise.
'Two degrees' goal
The goal of limiting global warming to at most 2 degrees Celsius above the benchmark of pre-industrial levels. This goal was reaffirmed by the Paris agreement. It arose as a figure giving a 50% chance of averting catastrophic runaway warming, but was then adopted as a political goal. Seen by many as reckless (would you get on a plane that had a 50% chance of crashing?), and many nations have been pushing for 1.5 degrees (included as an aspiration in the Paris agreement) instead. On the other hand, seen by others as (politically) impossible to achieve.
Fossil fuels are introduced into the economy (by importing them or extracting them from the ground), then they are bought and sold, and then eventually burnt for energy, at which point the emissions occur. Upstream systems try to control emissions by focussing on the first part of this process, where the fossil fuels enter the economy.
A system where permits are auctioned to fossil fuel suppliers (who need the permits to be allowed to bring in fossil fuels). The auction may be run by government or by an independent body like the Sky Trust, and the auction revenues may be kept by the government or given to the population (to compensate for the energy price rises caused by the fossil fuel suppliers recouping the money they paid in the auction).