You will often hear these 7 climate terms in the coming days (and this is what they mean)

We start with a word that you hear a lot when it comes to climate.

1. Greenhouse gases

The earth is warming because we are emitting too many greenhouse gases. There are various greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide. CO2 is the best known. This gas is released when fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas are burned.

There is nothing wrong with CO2 per se. In fact, without CO2, we would not be able to live on Earth. It traps heat from the sun in the atmosphere. Without greenhouse gases it would be -18 degrees Celsius here.

But an excess of greenhouse gases is not good and that is exactly what is happening now: we are emitting too much CO2 and that process has been going on for a while. Because there is now much more CO2 in the atmosphere than, say, 140 years ago, the earth is warming up further: the (extra) greenhouse effect.

2. Fossil Fuels

These are coal, lignite, oil and natural gas; substances that have arisen over millions of years from the remains of plants and animals. As long as you leave them in the ground, they are not a problem. But if you burn coal, oil and gas en masse (as we have been doing for 150 years now), far too much CO2 is released into the air. Resulting in global warming.

3. Nitrogen

In recent years you have also heard a lot about nitrogen and that the Netherlands has a nitrogen problem. That’s right, because we also emit too much of this gas. Yet nitrogen has nothing to do with climate change.

Nitrogen is not a greenhouse gas that warms the earth, like CO2. So why do we want to get rid of nitrogen? Because an excess of nitrogen causes the soil to acidify, which in turn ensures that certain plants, such as nettles, grow extra fast. As a result, they overgrow other plants, and as a result habitats for vulnerable insects and animals disappear.

Moreover, too much nitrogen is not good for our health, partly because it can form particulate matter if it reacts with ammonia.

4. Climate Change

An excess of greenhouse gases in the air is causing the average temperature on Earth to rise. This warming causes changes in the climate, such as changes in wind directions, precipitation and sea currents. Climate change affects extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and heat waves.

The water in the seas and oceans is also warming. Seawater that warms expands, causing the sea level to rise. Melting ice caps and glaciers also contribute to this. This can have enormous consequences for residents of countries with coastlines.

5. Climate neutral

Climate neutral means that no greenhouse gases are released during a service, action or product. In practice, however, it often comes down to not referring to climate neutral, but climate compensation.

You see this, for example, with air travel: you can compensate for the emissions from the aircraft – at least, your part of it – by paying a small extra for your ticket. Trees are then planted, for example. On paper that sum is correct, yet this explanation of ‘climate neutral’ is controversial.

Energy from solar panels and wind turbines is sometimes also referred to as climate neutral. That is not entirely correct, because energy was used in the production of the solar panel or the windmill itself, including CO2 emissions. These energy sources are ‘renewable’.

6. Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is also known as sustainable or green energy. Renewable energy is so called because it comes from sources that are constantly replenished, such as the wind, sun, hydropower and geothermal energy.

Those resources are infinite, unlike fossil energy, which requires you to burn coal, oil or gas. During this combustion, part of the stock disappears and even more CO2 is released into the atmosphere, which contributes to the greenhouse effect.

7. Biodiversity

Biodiversity indicates how many species of flowers, plants, birds, fish, insects and other animals are present in an area. Global biodiversity is under pressure due to climate change. Millions of species are threatened with extinction due to drought or heat.

Biodiversity is of crucial importance to humans, because it provides food and clean water, for example. Think, for example, of the bees that pollinate plants and trees, so that new life can arise.

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