Ahead of the release of the upcoming edition of Overseas on Saturday, which discusses our environmental impact on the world, here's a refresher on some of the oft-used terms in the current climate change debate. 

Carbon footprint

This refers to the amount of carbon, a greenhouse gas, that is emitted by a person, or organisation, during their activities, whether that is taking a flight, manufacturing a car, or heating their home.

Climate change

This refers to the global changes to climate, such as rising temperatures, or increased rainfall, that are being monitored by scientists and meteorologists. These can be short term, such as heatwaves or flooding, or long term, such as the steady rise in average temperatures. Their causes are thought to be a mixture of both natural processes and man made as a result of our increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.


The by-product of all sorts of industrial processes and everyday activities such as heating your home or driving your car, emissions are the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which contribute towards climate change by increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and trapping more of the sun's heat.


Much of these emissions have been brought about by the consumption of non-renewable forms of energy such as fossil fuels like oil and coal. Sustainability is the term used to describe using the earth's resources at a rate at which they can be replenished and renewed. Solar and wind power, for example are sustainable energy sources, which do not deplete the earth's resources and also do not contribute to climate change.

Tipping point

At some point in the future we may reach the point of no return, whereby the damage we have done to the environment becomes irreversible and our efforts to halt climate change have failed. At this point, the global effects of climate change may become even more volatile and hard to predict. Scientists say we now have just a decade to cut our emissions by half or this point may be reached.

Sea level rises

As global temperatures rise, the ocean's temperature is also rising and as it does, expanding, causing sea levels to rise around the world. This effect is compounded by the higher temperatures also melting glaciers, which add billions of tonnes more water into the oceans, further exacerbating the problem. Current sea levels are about 20cm higher than they were in 1900 and scientists predict could rise as much as 200cm further by 2100, displacing billions of people who live in coastal and low-lying areas.

Read how we can all play our part in the fight against climate change in the next edition of Overseas, due out on 1 June. 


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