Guest blog by Rosie Murdock, RSPB NI Communications Officer
Curious or confused about green terminology? Unpick the climate and nature crises with our handy Green Glossary. We will help you know your COP26 from your carbon sink and your net zero from your nature-based solution.
From the big questions to the ‘tiny terms’, our guide to finding out about all things green is a great way to learn more about the nature and climate crises, share knowledge with friends and family, and begin your journey to Revive our World.
Biodiversity is the variety of all living things on earth, from birds, mammals, insects and fish to the trees, flowers and all other plant life that make up our natural world. Anything living is part of the ‘web of life’ and as such has an effect which can be big or small on the living world around it.
The Climate Crisis is the dangerous and potentially catastrophic threat of human-induced climate change.
This crisis has resulted from global temperature rises (see The Paris Agreement) which if left unchecked will threaten our existence. We are already seeing major impacts such as extreme weather, and food and water shortages.
Soil is being degraded as never before with the result that 23% of the land surface of the Earth has reduced productivity. Poor quality soil cannot grow food or store carbon as effectively, exacerbating emissions, which in turn causes global temperatures to rise further. Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms devastate land where people live and work, destroy natural habitats for wildlife, negatively affect agriculture productivity, and make our supply chains vulnerable to disruption.
If we continue on the current path global temperatures will continue to rise and more extreme weather events will occur. Eventually we will make life on our planet unsustainable. But it is not too late to turn things around and mitigate the Climate Crisis. These changes will need to be global, and a fundamental change in how we interact with the natural world is needed.
COP stands for Conference of the Parties and is a global forum attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The next conference, taking place in Glasgow from 1 - 12 November 2021, will be the 26th meeting - that’s why it's called COP26.
At COP25, each nation, including the UK and the Republic of Ireland, agreed to devise a plan to cut their carbon emissions. COP26 will reunite world leaders to agree coordinated and accelerated action to tackle the climate emergency.
A Green Recovery focuses on ensuring that any policies, funding/investment? and solutions to help recover the economy from the Covid-19 pandemic also help tackle the dual climate and nature emergencies. Find out more about a what a Green Recovery looks like in Northern Ireland here.
Nature-based solutions are actions that protect and restore natural habitats to help tackle the challenges facing our society, including climate change, the loss of nature and improving health and wellbeing.
Healthy, functioning peatlands, seagrass meadows, kelp forests, native trees and wetlands are all examples of habitats that deliver nature-based solutions. These important habitats support unique plants and rare wildlife.
When these powerful habitats are restored and well managed, they capture huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and lock it away, helping to mitigate climate change. they also benefit nature by providing habitats to wildlife and plants.
The Nature Crisis refers to the dramatic global loss in biodiversity and particularly the accelerated loss of the last 50 years.
A UN report has stated that as of 2019 close to 25% of animals and plants are now threatened. This rapid decline means that nearly 1 million species now face extinction.
Studies have shown that species are disappearing at more than 100 times the natural rate.
This loss of biodiversity is attributed to human behaviour, with our global population doubling since 1970 we are encroaching on natural habitats more and more, to produce food and create space for a growing population, with a devastating effect on species.
There are other factors at play in driving decline, such as hunting, the direct exploitation of animals, climate change, pollution and invasive species. BBC News
Scientists studying these declines have stated that we are entering the sixth age of mass extinction. But we still have time to turn things around, through large scale conservation work, and targets in law to protect nature we can turn the tide for these threatened species and prevent further destruction to the natural world.
Globally billions of tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are released into the atmosphere every year and greenhouse gas emissions, produced by human activity, are at an all-time high. In order to mitigate the damage being done to the climate we need to urgently reduce the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
Net Zero refers to the balance between carbon emissions entering the atmosphere and carbon simultaneously being removed.
As opposed a Gross Zero plan, Net Zero allows for the production of some 'hard to treat' emissions to continue, for example in areas of industry where stopping them would be too expensive or the technology is not yet developed enough to reduce the emissions to zero.
In a Net Zero scenario, these emissions would need to be offset by removing carbon from the atmosphere through ‘carbon sinks’.
These can be natural or engineered, for example we can capture carbon in well maintained peatland, kelp forests, or woodland.
The Paris Agreement
On 12 December 2015 in Paris, 195 nations reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and accelerate action and investment to create a sustainable, low-carbon future.
Without united, global action against climate change, it will be impossible to prevent major risks to life on earth including mass extinctions, dangerous heat and more extreme weather events that can jeopardise air, water, food, and spread diseases.
Therefore, each nation committed to reducing the amount of greenhouse gases it produces by: keeping global temperature increases ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial levels (and to try limiting it to 1.5°C); reporting on progress made every five years; and to financially supporting developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a treaty agreed in 1994 to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in order to prevent a major threat to the world’s environment and economic development.
Web of Life
The web of life is made up of all living and non-living natural elements in a particular area. Making up the web are two elements, the living and non-living:
The Producers: plants which use the sun and water and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to create energy for themselves and oxygen and food for the other living elements.The Consumers: animals which create carbon dioxide for the producers and derive energy by eating them, they can be subdivided into herbivores, which each the plants, carnivores which eat other animals and omnivores which eat both the plants and other animals.The Decomposers: fungi and bacteria which cause the dead elements of the web to rot and break down.
Sun, which provides energy to the Producers. Air, which gives and receives oxygen from the plants and provides oxygen to the Consumers. Soil, which houses nutrients and energy for the plants and is replenished by the Decomposers. Water, which is needed for both the Producers and the Consumers to live.
Can’t find what you are looking for? If you want to know more about green terminology not included here, why not get in touch? Contact the RSPB NI's Campaign Team today.
If you want to find out about what it means to be ‘green’ why not join RSPB NI’s campaign to champion a Green Recovery, or sign up to be a campaigner here.
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