Glossary of Terms

Carbon footprint:Is calculated through a carbon audit of activities at a business premises or through a full company / product supply chain. The ausit measures levels of Greenhous Gas emissions generated through direct energy consumption and other factors such as transport, flights and waste.

Climate change: Describes the full extent of the implications of the greenhouse effect. Whilst the average temperature of the Earth may increase, it is the changes in the Earth’s climate systems that will be most dramatic. Extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, cyclones and frosts may effect areas previously unaffected or strike with increased frequency. Rising sea levels may affect rainfall patterns, soil erosion and local ecosystems.

Energy efficiency: One way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By cutting down on the energy our society needs to grow and develop, we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Simple steps like replacing older incandescent bulbs with new compact fluorescent lights can save 75% of your lighting energy needs.

Fugitive emissions: Caused by the escape of gases or liquids from confined vessels or pipes. For instance, methane, which is a greenhouse gas, is produced in landfills by decomposing vegetable matter and can be released into the atmosphere over time.

Fossil fuels: The minerals which human society require to generate most of our energy needs. Coal, oil (which is used to produce petroleum), natural gas, methane and diesel are all examples of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels consist of a long chemical structure that contains carbon. When oxidised with oxygen (burnt), carbon dioxide (CO2) is given off as a waste gas. CO2 is a chief greenhouse gas. Fossil fuels are most commonly used to generate electricity and power motor vehicles.

Global warming: The term given to the major consequence of the greenhouse effect. Scientists have long predicted and recently measured notable increases in the world’s temperature. Average global temperatures have increased 0.7oC since the 1900’s and the ten warmest years on record have all occurred since 1983 with seven of them since 1990.
While the term ‘global warming’ does go some way to describe the impacts of the greenhouse effect, climate change is a more accurate term.

Global Warming Potential: All greenhouse gases contribute to the ‘trapping’ of infrared radiation, hence heat, in the lower atmosphere. Due to the relative sizes of the greenhouse gas molecules, some trap more than other. Methane for instance has ten times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is used to compare the gases.

Greenhouse coefficient: For every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, a proportion of CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere. For example, one kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by burning brown coal will emit approximately one kilogram of CO2 into the atmosphere. The Australian Greenhouse Office annually determines each State’s Greenhouse coefficient, based on their respective sources of electricity generation. Tasmania’s electricity is almost 100% sourced from hydro while Victoria’s is almost entirely from burning brown coal. Hence, Tasmania’s coefficient of kilograms CO2 per kilowatt-hour of electricity purchased is a mere 0.002 while Victoria’s is 1.39 (the highest in Australia) and New South Wales’ is 0.897.

Greenhouse Effect: The common term given to the phenomenon whereby certain gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane) build up in the lower atmosphere and prevent heat from the sun’s rays from escaping into space. Scientists fear that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases may increase the average global temperature and lead to changes in the Earth’s climate and weather patterns.