The Simpson Centre
Wondering about what evapotranspiration is? What is IPCC? What are greenhouse gases, and how do they create climate change? Please start here, where you will find a primer on some of the more common terms you will see on this website.


Adaptation 4

In human systems, the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In narutral systems, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects.

Anthropogenic 1

Resulting from or produced by human activity.


Baseline (or reference) 1

The state against which change is measured. ‘Current baseline’ represents observable, present-day conditions. A ‘future baseline’ is a projected future set of conditions that excludes the driving factor of interest. Alternative interpretations of the reference conditions can give rise to multiple baselines.


Climate change 1

Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the average weather or, more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant variables over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. Variables taken into account most often include surface temperature, precipitation and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system.



Emissions Factor 5

Since direct measurement of emissions from all sources is not possible, emissions are estimated by relating an activity that can be measured with an emissions factor developed from research and evidence, that estimates amount of emissions from that activity. An emissions factor is a representative value that attempts to relate the quantity of a pollutant released to the atmosphere with an activity associated with the release of that pollutant. A simple example would be a factor for the amount of GHG emissions per head of cattle, and the activity measure would be the number of cattle.

Evapotranspiration 1

The combined process of water evaporation from the Earth’s surface and transpiration from vegetation.



Greenhouse effect 1

The process in which the absorption of infrared radiation by the atmosphere warms the Earth. In common parlance, the term ‘greenhouse effect’ may be used to refer either to the natural greenhouse effect, due to naturally occurring greenhouse gases, or to the enhanced (anthropogenic) greenhouse effect, which results from gases emitted as a result of human activities.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) 1

Gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of infrared radiation emitted by the Earth ’s surface, by the atmosphere itself and by clouds. Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and ozone (O3) are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. In addition, there are a number of entirely human-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as the halocarbons and other chlorine- and bromine-containing substances.



Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2

Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the objective of the IPCC is to provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies.



Kyoto Protocol 1

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It contains legally binding commitments, in addition to those included in the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on February 16, 2005.


Life cycle assessment (LCA) 4

Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its life cycle. For agri-food products this would be from farm through processing to retailing, to consumer and post-consumer waste.


Mitigation 1

In the context of climate change, mitigation is an anthropogenic intervention to reduce the anthropogenic forcing of the climate system; it includes strategies to reduce greenhouse gas sources and emissions and enhance greenhouse gas sinks.


Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) 4

A term used under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) whereby a country that has joined the Paris Agreement outlines its plans for reducing its emissions. Some countries’ NDCs also address how they will adapt to climate change impacts, and what support they need from, or will provide to, other countries to adopt low-carbon pathways and to build climate resilience. According to Article 4 paragraph 2 of the Paris Agreement, each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive NDCs that it intends to achieve. In the lead up to 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris in 2015, countries submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). As countries join the Paris Agreement, unless they decide otherwise, this INDC becomes their first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). See also United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Paris Agreement.



Paris Agreement 4

The Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted on December 2015 in Paris, France, at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC. The agreement, adopted by 196 Parties to the UNFCCC, entered into force on 4 November 2016, and as of May 2018 had 195 Signatories and was ratified by 177 Parties. One of the goals of the Paris Agreement is ‘Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. Additionally, the Agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Policy instruments 3

The means to address a problem and achieve desired policy goals that governments can use to change socioeconomic structures and individual and collective behaviours. Instruments include provision of information, voluntary guidelines and codes and standards, regulations and market-based mechanisms (e.g. emissions trading schemes, and water pricing and allocation schemes).






United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 4

The UNFCCC was adopted in May 1992 and opened for signature at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It entered into force in March 1994 and as of May 2018 had 197 Parties (196 States and the European Union). The Convention’s ultimate objective is the ‘stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.’ The provisions of the Convention are pursued and implemented by two treaties: the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.