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Build a more resilient vocabulary

A glossary of the new terms and technologies you'll find in Experience’s ‘Climate’ stories

By Schuyler Velasco

Climate change is a big problem, and it will require new ideas to combat it. Some, like cutting back on air travel and changing your diet to include more environmentally-friendly “meat” and “cheese,” are small lifestyle adjustments. Others — re-freezing Arctic ice; shading the Earth with giant umbrellas — are big, bold, and, for now, largely theoretical. All require a new language to describe them. Click on a word below to read the story in which it appears.

When something man-made imitates elements found in nature — synthetic trees that scrub carbon, for example.

A growing market of products made from renewable resources, typically as an alternative to things like fossil fuels and animal products.  

Catenary lines
A system of electrified wires that power above-ground trains and trolleys on roads. Some are suggesting catenary lines as an alternative power source for large, fuel-inefficient semi-trucks.

Carbon offsets
Reducing carbon emissions in one place in order to make up for increasing emissions elsewhere. Individuals can buy carbon offsets to make up for their own greenhouse gas emissions, a controversial practice that divides critics.

Flight shaming
Flygskam in Swedish; a movement discouraging air travel, since emissions from aviation are a major source of greenhouse gases. Popularized by Greta Thunberg, flight-shaming has led to a decline in air travel in some countries, and prompted air carriers like Delta to make pledges to go carbon-neutral.

Gaia theory  
The idea that living organisms interact with their man-made surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain the conditions necessary for life on the planet.

Deliberate, large-scale, and largely theoretical (for now) manipulation of the earth’s climate and weather patterns. Examples of geoengineering include re-freezing Arctic ice, huge umbrellas shading the earth from sunlight, and synthetic trees.

Impossible Burger
A popular brand of plant-based substitute for a beef hamburger. An expensive, experimental product just a few short years ago, Impossible meat is now widely available, including at fast food chains like Burger King.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, a leading international certification system for energy efficiency in buildings. 

Marine cloud brightening
Manipulating the earth’s cloud cover to reflect more sunlight into space, in theory helping to cool the Earth.

A pejorative term for a large, opulent, mass-produced home. Once derided as energy-guzzlers, many McMansions have been getting green upgrades in recent years, rather than being torn down.

A greenhouse gas, produced in abundance by cows.

Microscopic spheres made of glass or plastic that stick to the surface of water. They have wide commercial use in building projects, beauty products, and medical devices. 

Bacteria and microscopic algae and fungi usually living in a particular place as part of a specific ecosystem.

Project Hermes
A project to monitor climate change in the Earth’s warmer waters by attaching measuring devices to the tanks of scuba divers.

Large-scale tree planting to reduce carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere

Remora device
A portable, precision temperature sensor, named after a small fish that attaches itself to the bellies of sharks. The Remora measures water temperature and uses GPS to record divers’ locations.

Synthetic trees
Man-made devices to scrub the atmosphere of carbon, as trees do.

A green-spored, microscopic fungus used to control disease in plants. It’s also used in the wine and beer industry during fermentation and is a starting point for a new type of lab-grown cheese.

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