Confused about climate change terms? Rest easy, a jargon-buster is at hand

Young people seeking to unblock barriers to participation and engagement on climate

Climate change cause  severely hampered by a sea of confusing jargon. Photograph: iStock

Climate change cause severely hampered by a sea of confusing jargon. Photograph: iStock


For those experiencing the climate change equivalent of “I don’t know what a tracker mortgage is”, a new jargon-buster website is at hand.

Climate change, often described as climate disruption or global warming/overheating, may pose the biggest and most immediate existential threat to humankind, but the cause – and requirement for urgent action – is severely hampered by a sea of confusing jargon.

The digital jargon buster produced by a group of young Irish people concerned about the fate of planet Earth defogs matters with 80 key terms outlined in accessible language which they hope will facilitate informed action.

The days of government formation talks not helped by confusion over what exactly does “biogenic methane” mean may be no more – it is methane produced and released from living organisms, the jargon-buster explains helpfully – plants and animals but notably from cows (burped not farted, by the way).

Do you know your GHGs? What of the difference of blue and green hydrogen; a fuel for a decarbonised world – oops sorry, there goes another infuriating term; very much in the category of “net-zero”. All are clarified through climatejargonbuster.ieThe field of carbon emissions is particularly challenging because of the range of greenhouse gases causing global warming due to human activity, so it has to be acknowledged knowing your GHGs is not easy.

Likewise, the climate impact of energy production is complex and infested by jargon. With short definitions from the jargon-buster the offender gases are clear and everything you need to know about “renewables” – not forgetting your carbon footprint.

It “measures carbon emissions linked to a particular activity or product” including those from all stages of making and using a product, or carrying out an activity.

Explanations are designed “to help describe ideas and concepts rather than to give strict scientific definitions”. Dipping into them, however, reveals the tool is more than adequate to arm climate activists; young and old. And it gets the imprimatur of the Nationa Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) for use of plain English.

Developed in collaboration with a group of young people from Comhairle na nÓg, the project was devised following feedback received from peers last year about the complexity of terminology associated with climate science and policy – and how it creates barriers to participation and engagement.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Children an Green Party TD Roderic O’Gorman launched the website.

“Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our Planet,” Mr Martin noted, “but the language around it is complex and not easy to understand. This website is a practical and useful resource that will help people gain a greater understanding of climate action.”

Speaking at a meeting with young people who helped develop the jargon buster, Mr O’Gorman said: “Young people have led the way on climate action, and I want to ensure that they continue to be centrally involved in our response to climate change. The project shows the value of collaborating with young people, and I hope it will be of use to everyone with an interest in protecting our environment.”

The website’s compilers are open to suggestions on adding further terms in the interests of accessible – and reliable – climate information.