Essential terms and definitions for the lesson plans and educational companion materials developed for An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

  • atmosphere    |    battery storage    |    carbon dioxide

    atmosphere: the mixture of gases, air, surround and bound to the Earth

    battery storage: a container of one or more cells in which solar energy is converted to electricity and used as a source of power.

    carbon dioxide: CO2, a colorless and odorless gas which is the fourth most abundant constituent of dry air.

  • clean energy solutions    |    climate adaptation    |    climate change

    clean energy solutions: those solutions that employ the use of renewable energy sources to meet energy demand, such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydro.

    Climate adaptation: the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects.

    Climate changeany significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among others, that occur over several decades or longer. (climate- the “average weather,” or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands of years. The classical period is 3 decades, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). These quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system.)


  • climate refugee    |    COP21    |    Crystalline solar cells

    climate refugee: persons who have been forced to leave their home region due to sudden or long-term changes to their local environment which compromise their wellbeing or secure livelihood, such changes include increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise and disruption of seasonal weather patterns such as monsoons.

    COP21: The Paris Climate Conference is officially known as the 21st Conference of the Parties (or “COP”) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations body which is responsible for climate and based in Bonn, Germany.  The Conference will also serve as the 11th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The COP meets each year to take decisions that further the implementation of the Convention and to combat climate change. COP21 will take place at the same time as CMP11, the 11th meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which oversees the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and the decisions made to increase its effectiveness.

    crystalline silicon solar cells: a type of photovoltaic cell (semiconductor element that immediately converts light into electrical energy) made from a slice of single-crystal silicon or polycrystalline silicon.

  • Drought    |    electric vehicles(EV's)    |    electricity grid

    drought: a deficiency of moisture that results in adverse impacts on people, animals and/or vegetation over a sizable area.

    electric vehicles (EV’s): electric vehicles use electricity stored in a battery pack to power an electric motor and turn the wheels. When depleted, the batteries are recharged using grid electricity, either from a wall socket or a dedicated charging unit.

    electricity grid: a system of synchronized power providers and consumers connected by transmission and distribution lines and operated by one or more control centers. In the United States, the electric power grid consists of three systems, the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and the Texas Interconnection.

  • EPA    |    extreme weather events    |    financial assets

    EPA: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an agency of the U.S. government which was created to protect human health and the environment.

    extreme weather events: includes unusual, severe, or unseasonal weather; weather at the extremes of the historical distribution-the range that has been seen in the past.

    financial assets: money at hand, or easily accessible, in the form of cash deposits, checks, loans, accounts receivable and marketable securities (bonds, notes, shares).

  • flood    |    food shortage    |    fossil fuels

    flood: an overflowing of a large amount of water beyond its normal confines, especially over what is normally dry land or already saturated land.

    food shortage: exists when there is not enough food available for people to eat.

    fossil fuels: an energy source formed in the Earth’s crust from decayed organic material. The common fossil fuels are petroleum, coal and natural gas. Fossil fuels are considered nonrenewable resources.

  • glacier    |    global ocean heat    |    global surface temperature

    glacier: made up of fallen snow that, over many years, compress into large, thickened ice masses. Glaciers form when snow remains in one location long enough to transform into ice. What makes glaciers unique is their ability to move. Due to sheer mass, glaciers flow like very slow rivers.

    global ocean heat: the heat stored in the ocean. Changes in the ocean heat content play an important role in sea level rise, because of thermal expansion.

    global surface temperature: is how hot the “surface” of the Earth would feel to the touch in a particular location. From a satellite’s point of view, the “surface” is whatever it sees when it looks through the atmosphere to the ground. It could be snow and ice, the grass on a lawn, the roof of a building, or the leaves in the canopy of a forest. Thus, land surface temperature is not the same as the air temperature that is included in the daily weather report.

  • global warming    |    green energy    |    greenhouse gases

    global warming: an increase of Earth’s average temperature which could lead to climate change. Scientists are concerned that human activities are altering the concentration of greenhouse gases that lead to greater warming of Earth’s atmosphere.

    green energy: energy that can be produced in a way that protects the natural environment, for example by using wind, water or the sun.

    greenhouse gases: The gases that absorb terrestrial radiation and contribute to the greenhouse effect; the main greenhouse gases are water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide and ozone.

  • habitat loss    |    heat exhaustion    |    heat stroke

    habitat loss: habitat destruction, fragmentation and degradation are three types of habitat loss that contribute to species decline.

    heat exhaustion: a mild form of heat stroke, characterized by faintness, dizziness and heavy sweating.

    heat stroke: A condition resulting from excessive exposure to intense heat, characterized by high fever, collapse and sometimes convulsions or coma.

  • heat trapping gases    |    high tide    |    ice extent

    heat trapping gases: see Greenhouse Gases

    high tide: high tides are caused by Earth’s gravitational forces exerted by the moon, sun and rotation of the Earth. High tide occurs twice in a 24 hour period.

    ice extent: the total area covered by some amount of ice, including open water between ice flows; typically reported in square kilometers.

  • ice sheets    |    infectious disease    |    infrared radiation

    ice sheet: a dome-shaped mass of glacier ice that covers surround terrain and is greater than 50,000 square kilometers (12 million acres)

    infectious disease: Infectious diseases are caused by pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi; the diseases can be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another.

    infrared radiation: invisible (to the human eye) radiation with wavelengths in the range from about 750 nanometers, just longer than red in the visible spectrum, to 1 millimeter, on the border of the microwave region.

  • IPCC    |    LED lights    |    mass balance

    IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programmer (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

    LED lights: Light Emitting Diode. LEDs are a solid state device and do not require heating of a filament to create light. Rather electricity is passed through a chemical compound that is excited and generates light.

    mass balance: the difference between accumulation and ablation in a glacier; usually calculated on an annual basis.

  • mass extinction    |    NASA    |    NOAA

    mass extinction: The extinction of a large number of species within a relatively short period of geological time, thought to be due to factors such as a catastrophic global event or widespread environmental change that occurs too rapidly for most species to adapt.

    NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA’s missions, programs and projects are ensuring the United States will remain the world’s leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come, while making critical advances in aerospace, technology development and aeronautics.

    NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – their mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts; share knowledge and information with others; and conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

  • ocean current    |    pandemic    |    Paris Agreement

    ocean current: A horizontal movement of water. Currents may be classified as tidal and nontidal. Tidal currents are caused by gravitational interactions between the sun, moon, and earth and are a part of the same general movement of the sea that is manifested in the vertical rise and fall, called TIDE. Tidal currents are periodic with a net velocity of zero over the tidal cycle. Nontidal currents include the permanent currents in the general circulatory systems of the sea as well as temporary currents arising from more pronounced meteorological variability. The SET of a current is the direction toward which it flows; the DRIFT is its speed.

    pandemic: An epidemic occurring over a widespread area (multiple countries or continents) and usually affecting a substantial proportion of the population.

    Paris Agreement: an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015.

  • People's Climate March    |    pollution    |    poverty

    People’s Climate March: On April 29th, 2017 more than 300,000 people in Washington D.C and across the country joined together in a powerful demonstration in protest of President Donald Trump and his administration’s environmental policies.

    pollution: the presences in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects.

    poverty: Poverty is multidimensional and looks at the economic, social, political and cultural aspects that undermine human rights to meet standards associated with basic human needs.

  • renewable resources    |    scientific community    |    sea level rise

    renewable resources: The capacity for doing work as measured by the capability of doing work (potential energy) or the conversion of this capability to motion (kinetic energy). Energy has several forms, some of which are easily convertible and can be changed to another form useful for work.

    scientific community: a diverse network of interacting scientists. It includes many “sub-committees” working in particular scientific fields and within particular institutions; interdisciplinary and cross-institutional activities are also significant. Objectivity is expected to be achieved by the scientific method and peer review, through discussion and debate within journals and conferences, assists in this objectivity by maintaining the quality of research methodology and interpretation of results.

    sea level rise: the upward trend in average sea level height

  • solar energy    |    solar radiation    |    statistical significance

    solar energy: The radiant energy of the sun, which can be converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or electricity.

    solar radiation: the electromagnetic radiation or energy emitted by the sun.

    statistically significant: a number that expresses the probability that the result of a given experiment or study could have occurred purely by change. This number can be a margin of error (“The results of this public opinion poll are accurate to five percent”), or it can indicate a confidence level, (“If this experiment were repeated, there is a probability of ninety-five percent that our conclusions would be substantiated.”).

  • stop gap    |    storm surge    |    stratosphere

    stop gap: something that serves as a temporary expedient – a short-term fix, a Band-Aid to a larger problem.

    storm surge: An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic tide from the observed storm tide.

    stratosphere: The region of the atmosphere extending from the top of the troposphere to the base of the mesosphere, an important area for monitoring stratospheric ozone.

  • sustainable development    |    Sustainable Development Goals    |    troposphere

    sustainable development: is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It is a visionary plan that calls for integration of economic development, social equity and environmental protection. It is development that puts people at the center and that is just, equitable and inclusive.

    Sustainable Development Goals: SDG’s is the common acronym for the Sustainable Development Goals, also referred to as Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The concept of the SDGs was agreed at the RIO+20 Summit in 2012. The Rio+20 Outcome Document call for the SDGs to be “global in nature and universally applicable to all countries, while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development. The goals will stimulate action over the next fifteen years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet, including poverty eradication, food security, health, education, gender equality, access to water, sanitation, clean energy, decent jobs, key infrastructure, strong institutions, inequality reduction, sustainable urbanization, responsible production and consumption patterns, climate change mitigation and adaptation and ecosystem conservation.

    troposphere: The layer of the atmosphere from the Earth’s surface up to the tropopause, characterized by decreasing temperature with height (except, perhaps, in thin layers – see inversion cap), vertical wind motion, appreciable water vapor content and sensible weather (clouds, rain, etc.).

  • water cycle    |    water shortage    |    waterborne disease

    water cycle: the cycle of processes by which water circulates between the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere and land, involving precipitation as rain and snow, drainage in streams and rivers and return to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration.

    water shortage: is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the water needs within a region. It affects every continent and around 2.8 billion people around the world at least on month out of every year. More than 1.2 people lack access to clean drinking water.

    waterborne disease: caused by recreational or drinking water contaminated by disease-causing microbes or pathogens. Many waterborne pathogens can also be acquired by consuming contaminated food or beverages, from contact with animals or their environment, or through person to person contact.

  • wildfire    |    wildfire season    |    wind energy

    wildfire: a large, destructive fire that spreads quickly over woodland or brush. Wildfires can be started naturally, such as from a lightning strike, intentionally, by arson or accidentally, by improperly extinguishing and/or disposing of lit materials, such as cigarettes or camp fires.

    wildfire season: a period of time when, due to climate and weather patterns, wildland fires are likely to occur, spread and affect resource values sufficient to warrant organized fire management activities.

    wind energy: Kinetic energy present in wind motion that can be converted to mechanical energy for driving pumps, mills and electric power generators.


  • World Economic Forum

    World Economic Forum: an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.