What terms should be in my glossary? am going to do a glossary for Climate Progress, and I’d like your suggestions as to what it should include.

I’ve been planning to do one for a while.  Now it looks like I will be doing a book of best blog posts (see “What is your favorite Climate Progress post?“) — and that certainly needs a glossary.

I’ll cover everything from amplifying feedback to recycled Energy to Solar Baseload to wedges (stabilization).  I’ll try to steal borrow liberally progressively from EPA‘s and Wikipedia‘s, but hopefully be less boring.  It will posted on the sidebar and constantly upgraded.


34 Responses to What terms should be in my glossary?

  1. david freeman says:

    It’s not exactly a climate science term or even technical but “cargo cult science” certainly describes denialist “research”. I wish Feynman were alive today to weed the rampant growth of pseudo science.

  2. Ken says:

    Be sure to include a bunch of synonyms. For instance, “CSP with Storage (See Solar Baseload)”, or is that the wrong way ’round?

    One of the last I learned that you didn’t make up on your blog is “Combined Heat and Power (CHP) (See Cogeneration)”.

  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    CO2 generated by burning (in a car) a gallon of gas
    CO2 generated by burning a ton of coal
    CO2 generated per kWh of electricity generated by burning coal
    CO2 generated per kWh of electricity generated, current avg. in U.S.
    CO2 generated per M Btu of natural gas, and per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, and per kWh of electricity generated via natural gas (in a typical modern plant)

    Ethical considerations associated with climate change
    Inter-generational justice
    “Clean coal”

  4. Lee says:

    I started one for people who I’ve told about CP and RC. I haven’t gotten far, but here is what I have. Please forgive the bad jokes!

    ACES – American Climate and Energy Security – aka Waxman/Markey
    AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming
    BI – Bad Information aka Breakthrough Institute
    CP – Climate Progress (maybe not necessary here)
    GISS – Godard Institute for Space Studies
    GISTEMP – NASA’s global surface temperature dataset
    GCM – General Circulation Model or now more often Global Climate Model
    Hadcrut3 – Hadley Center combined land/sea global temperatures dataset
    HFC – Hydrogen Fuel Cell – Joe may want to leave this one out :-)
    RC – Real Climate
    SST – Sea Surface Temperature

  5. David Schonberger says:

    Gotta have definitions for Denier Industrial-Complex Kooks (DICKs) and Anti-Science Syndrome (ASS). :-)

  6. gecko says:

    Removing the structural violence of current transportation systems — essentially all those based on cars — would significantly mitigate of global warming, improve health, mobility, economies, quality of life.

    Structural Violence
    Transportation as systemic negligence under the rule of law

    Transportation systems based on automobiles are essentially “bull in china shop” systems where cars are way too large, overpowered, and too heavy; and, that delicate china they must somehow dance around and not destroy is human life. This is the conundrum. This is the problem of transportation systems based on cars. These types of systems, when you really think about it make no sense as the purpose of these systems is to serve human life which they do so poorly.


  7. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    “sowing doubt”

  8. Ramona Fabregas says:

    Positive feedback loop
    carbon sink
    tipping point

    Your readers know all these terms – but the average person seems not to. People’s notion of a “tipping point” is very vague. I think most people conceptualize “tipping point” in a similar way to the admonition against crossing your eyes (don’t do it cuz they could get stuck like that). It would help the discussion if these terms and concepts were more widely understood.

  9. Robert says:


    Maybe i’m straying from the Glossary Theme, so forgive me, but why not define a numbered scale relating pollution to energy efficiency [GHG pollution, (CO2e) multiplied by heat loss (unused energy) to the biosphere]. PV’s would have the lowest rating as they add almost no ‘new’ ambient heat wherein Nuclear Power and Fossil Fuel power being no more efficient than 30% to 35%, would hold the highest and most destructive value. Now use this number to fix a total value to the annual generation that a Nuke or FF generation system delivers. Nuke Power must be understood as being the most expensive and highest potential (non GHG) pouter on the face of the earth. This would cut through all the hype and focus on the right path to sustainable energy. Just maybe the world can save its sorry self for a greener future generation. This is just the project for our world renowned physicist. Now call it the ‘Romm Scale’ and all will see the catastrophe that haunts life today and the contrasting hope that abounds from, of all places, the sun.
    The last thought that may apply here is that all Fossil Fuel is sequestered energy that should stay sequestered.


    PS: The unit of measure could be GHGxH

  10. Col says:

    How about a “reverse glossary” where you have definitions for words you wish existed? Then people fill in (in a respectful, civil and otherwise appropriate manner).

  11. Boudica says:

    List all forms of energy according to cost (on a common basis) and life cycle GHG emissions to allow direct comparisons. Leave out subsidies (ethanol), corporate welfare (oil drilling depreciation allowance), and any other market perturbations.

  12. Eoin says:

    How about “manufactured controversy”?

  13. Jim says:

    I find ” forcings” to be the most confusing term to the non-scientist. Remember, eschew obfuscation.

  14. Komdu sæl says:

    “Albedo effect” is worth a mention.

  15. Maggie says:

    Ditto Jim. “Forcings” is confusing to non-scientists!

  16. David B. Benson says:

    What Jim (13) and Maggie (15) wrote.

  17. Dunning-Kruger effect – this wonderful term helps with understanding denialism and scientific reticence – from Wikipedia:

    The Dunning-Kruger effect is an example of cognitive bias in which “…people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it”.

    They therefore suffer an illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average. This leads to a perverse result where people with less competence will rate their ability more highly than people with relatively more competence. It also explains why competence may weaken the projection of confidence because competent individuals falsely assume others are of equivalent understanding.

    “Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”

    more at

  18. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Null hypothesis: The incumbent argument.

    Red noise white noise; don’t ask me I don’t know.

    A word for the institutional bias towards incremental changes to the knowledge base. Iterative science?

    Slow science (slow cooking): Peer reviewed science is necessarily a slow process. While I abhore the snail like progress of the peer review system, I do not have a better answer.

  19. Sam Spade says:

    Remember your most important audience: those people who are interested, but new to the topic.

    Be brave: be complete. And readers on other websites will come back to yours, to look things up.


    TSI, GHG, ENSO, PDO, SOI, PV, Met Office

  20. 布里斯班 says:

    anything funny~~

  21. Peter Wood says:

    climate sensitivity; border tax, border tax adjustments; price floors in emissions trading schemes; price ceilings in emissions trading schemes, safety valve, price cap; prisoner’s dilemma; personal carbon offset; offset (in an emissions trading scheme); clean development mechanism, (CDM), also certified emissions reduction (CER); UNFCCC and the two ad hoc working groups that are currently negotiating; Annex 1 country; abatement; mitigation; adaptation; contraction and convergence; rent seeking; carbon leakage; baseline and credit; REDD; Stern review; AAU; el nino; GCM; palaeoclimatology

  22. Chris Winter says:

    I’m concerned mostly about the new acronyms. Everyone knows GHG means greenhouse gases. GCMs are “Global Climate Models” or “General Circulation Models.” Most probably recognize ENSO and PDO as “El Niño Southern Oscillation” and “Pacific Decadal Oscillation” respectively. But the others? Here are some, gleaned from your posts or comments, that give me trouble:

    CHP I have to keep reminding myself this is not California Highway Patrol but “Combined Heat and Power.”

    CCS Carbon Capture and Sequestration, not Constant Commercial Service (a rating of radio transmitter tubes)

    PHEV Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle
    CSP Concentrating Solar Photovoltaic
    HFC Hydrogen Fuel Cell (I think of Household Finance Corporation, but of course that’s long gone.)
    MTR Mountaintop Removal
    ERBE Earth Radiation Budget Experiment
    GRACE Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment
    PETM Permian-Eemian Thermal Maximum
    SST Sea Surface Temperature, not Supersonic Transport

    These won’t be palatable, but may be worth including: CA, SPPI, WUWT

  23. Roger says:

    I’d vote for albedo, Black Swan, climate, decision grid (or tree), evidence, feedback mechanisms, game theory, Heartland Institute, Inconvenient Truth, junk science, Kyoto Protocol, lobbyist, masking effect, National Academies, ocean conveyor belt, peak oil, quality of life, runaway effect, solar influx, tragedy of the commons, uncertainty, venus’ flytrap effect, weather, X Prize, Yucca Mountain, and, zooxanthellae (the poor little, temperature-sensitive alga living in a coral polyp).

  24. ken levenson says:

    ton of carbon vs. ton of CO2
    polar amplification
    El Nino
    ocean acidification
    surface temperature
    methane (and the other more “exotic” ghgs)

  25. Dan K. says:

    One topic/term that I feel is not utilized enough or not properly is geothermal. Now, not necessarily like a geothermal plant, but residential and commercial geothermal. The case in which you put tubes (no, it’s not the internet, Sen. Stevens) in the ground around a house or building and you use the ground constant temperature as a heat sink or heat source – use it to cool the house when it’s summer and warm when it’s winter. It uses not that much energy (which I’m sure you can ‘offset’ using solar or such in most places), has a reasonable payback period and other benefits. There’s a company here near Raleigh that does that, which I’m sure you can find on the net. Quick, simple, good ‘physics’ and should have more funding going into it.


  26. Maribeth M says:

    Off the top of my head… cap and trade.

    Would you consider linking to all the Crock of the Week videos?…


    MYTH: It’s the Sun &/or Sunspots
    Solar Schmolar: Debunking the “It’s the Sun” fable

    MYTH: Other planets warming prove it’s the sun
    Mars Attacks!!

    MYTH: “The Hockey Stick” is broken
    “The Medieval Warming Crock”

    MYTH: A cold day in ____ proves climate change isn’t happening
    “It’s cold. So there’s no Climate Change”

    MYTH: It’s a natural 1500 year cycle
    That 1500 Year Thing

    MYTH: They were predicting global cooling in the 1970s
    I Love the 70s!!

    MYTH: 30,000 scientists signed a petition
    The Great Petition Fraud

    MYTH: Sea levels are not rising, or not like they said
    All Wet on Sea Level rise

    MYTH: Climate change ended in 1998
    Party like it’s 1998

    MYTH: CO2 is not driving climate change
    Sense from Deniers on CO2? Don’t hold your breath….

    MYTH: Climate change is good for plants and crops
    Don’t it make my Green World Brown: CO2 and plant growth

    MYTH: The climate models are unreliable
    This Year’s Model: Climate models and modeling

    MYTH: Arctic ice is recovering
    Polar Ice Update: Arctic Perennial Ice and Methane

    Ice Area vs Volume: Debunking the “Ice is back to 1979 levels” idiocy

    MYTH: Weather stations are unreliable
    Watts Up With Watts?

    The “Urban Heat Island” Crock

    MYTH: The “lag” shows CO2 does not cause climate change
    The “Temp leads Carbon” Crock

    The Big Swindle Movie

  27. Sam Spade says:

    deg C….Celsius……………0……………100.
    deg F….Fahrenheit………..32……………212.

    (212 – 32)deg F = 100 deg C
    ……….deg F = (5/9) deg C

    TdegF = (9/5)(TdegC) + 32
    TdegC = (5/9)(TdegF – 32)

    Some algebra is worth a thousand words…
    Some people would thank you…

  28. David Schonberger says:

    Might also be useful to include info/bios on important people and/or institutions, both the folks who get it (Hansen, Gore, etc.) as well as deniers/delayers (Pielke, Inhofe, etc.). Just a thought.

  29. Rhiya says:


  30. Mike#22 says:

    “Dance the Dotty”

  31. Peter Wood says:

    Glossarys are for definitions rather than lists of acronyms. Acronyms (even common ones such as GHGs) are just bad all round and should be avoided as much as possible.

    [JR: I try to use them to inject some humor.]

  32. Chris Winter says:

    Well, here are a few more acronyms:

    GCR Galactic Cosmic Rays
    FD Forbush Decreases
    DM Dalton Minima
    CWC Cloud Water Content
    CCN Cloud Condensation Nuclei
    AERONET Aerosol Robotic Network
    LIE Lindzen Iris Effect (I’m not sure this one is official.)
    MODIS Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
    SSM/I Special Sensor Microwave/Imager
    DOE Dansgaard-Oeschger Events (I’m not sure this one is official.)
    SLR Sea Level Rise, not single-lens reflex

  33. Aubrey Meyer says:

    If you do reference C&C – I hope you do – could you please cite the source: –

  34. Mike#22 says:

    Snark Rifle