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Climate change terms you're embarrassed to ask about

Climate change is a complex subject, and we humans aren’t very good at thinking about it. Yet in this day and age, we are all expected to be as aware as possible about climate change. Ever found yourself nodding along like you know what’s going on during a climate conversation? This blog is here to save the day by providing a quick crash course and recap on the most up-and-coming climate change terms!

Climate change/global warming

“Yeah, I mean, if Boston didn’t just have, like, the coldest winter ever last year, then MAYBE I’d agree with you that there’s such a thing as, uh, ‘global warming’,” said a character from the Netflix TV series, “Love”. It’s great satire, but we can see how it somehow makes a good point. The terms “climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably, but they actually have slightly different meanings.

Global warming: The long-term heating of the Earth’s climate system due to human activities. It is most commonly measured as the average increase in Earth’s global surface temperature.

Climate change: A long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates.

So, climate change describes more extreme weather conditions, including colder winters (but also hotter summers) on a more regional scale. However, the concept of global warming warns us that our average global temperature is still increasing on the whole. Nevertheless, they still stem from the same causes (human activity) and are very related concepts. (Source: NASA, if you’d like to find out more!)

Tipping points

Tipping points are reached when certain impacts of global warming become unstoppable and irreversible, potentially also creating chain reaction to other tipping points, sort of like opening the floodgates to a hotter, more inhabitable planet. In fact, we blogged about it here. If you want to read up more about specific tipping points, you can check out this article, but the UN has simplified it down to a magic number during the Paris Agreement: we have to keep the globe from warming a further 1.5°C.

The UN warns that unless our average carbon emissions fall by 7.6% each year for this entire decade, the world will not be able to meet this target. That is why Capture’s carbon emissions tracking app set users’ monthly allowances as 7.6% less than their baseline emissions. ;)


Meat-free diets are all the hype these days… you may even wonder why everyone around you is trying to deprive you of your favourite foods. We wish this weren’t the case either… but the food industry is responsible for about a shocking 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is because food isn’t just food anymore, it’s “how we grow, get, eat (and waste) our food” - in other words, it’s about land use. Read our previous article for a deeper dive into this issue, as well as amazing recipes to ease into a lower carbon diet!

Some etymology for you: the vegan movement was created in 1944 by Donald Watson, mainly for ethical, cruelty-free reasons, but it gradually went on to encompass environmental and health benefits. You might have heard the term “plant-based” being thrown about more recently, and wondered if it meant the same thing as being vegan. The answer: it could, but the main difference is that a plant-based diet might include meat or dairy, but treat them as the side dish rather than the staple.

These days, there is a whole spectrum of meat-free diets...and an even larger spectrum of myths surrounding them - read our previous article more!

Environmental Justice and Intersectionality

Environmental Justice: the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income, with respect to the enforcement of environmental policies.

Intersectionality: a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities might intersect to create unique modes of discrimination and privilege.

To use both terms in a sentence, environmental justice is highly intersectional. Environmental justice cannot happen if people do not receive the same degree of protection from environmental disasters, and equal access to opportunity and empowerment. With a highly diverse team, Capture stands against racism and all other forms of discrimination.

Like many other environmental groups, we strive to make more marginalized voices heard. This is also why we target the wealthiest 10% of the population (responsible for 50% of the world’s carbon emissions) to use their privilege for good and live more planet-friendly lives. Here’s a question … how might you choose to bring about environmental justice in your own way?

Carbon credits (and related terms)

To put it simply, carbon crediting is a way of putting a price/number on the environment. Before this concept existed, environmental degradation was only classified under one of many “externalities” in the economic model, and it was hard for profit-oriented entities such as capitalist nations or TNCs to take financial responsibility for the negative impacts their economic activities have caused.

The concept of carbon crediting really took off when it was introduced by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) during the Kyoto Protocol, to create a market oriented mechanism for all nations and companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Different entities were allocated different allowances based on their intersectionalities, and if they exceeded their yearly allowance (carbon deficit), they had to buy more credits (one form of carbon taxing) to offset their emissions. They could purchase these credits from countries with extra credits to spare (this is called having a carbon surplus).

You might be thinking that it sounds slightly sinister to think of nature in terms of dollars, and you’re right - it is indeed not the perfect solution. This guardian article nicely summarizes the debate surrounding carbon crediting and offsetting.

The Capture app helps individuals track, reduce and offset their personal carbon footprints.

We know that carbon offsetting can be a sensitive topic in the environmental justice community, and we emphasise that it's vital for us to reduce emissions first, and keep offsetting as the last resort. For those who do choose to offset with Capture, we hope to demonstrate here how important and beneficial these projects can be; read this article to find out more about the certified offsetting projects we support.

Want to pick up even more climate change terms? Follow our instagram @thecaptureapp for more educational content!



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