Discover and understand the ever-growing terminology shaping the new era of business.

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Activities that reduce the harm resulting from the impacts of the climate crisis. Examples include moving communities further from the shoreline or building seawalls to protect them from rising water levels. Discourse around the term often implies that many of the effects of the climate crisis are already here or inevitable, and therefore adaptation is a necessary aspect of our future.



Organic material, whereby narrow definitions would only include plants, but broader definitions also include recently living but now deceased animals. When plants photosynthesize they absorb energy from the sun.

When animals eat plants, they too absorb the energy that the plants now contain. This energy stored in the biomass can then be converted into other forms of energy. Examples of biomass include wood or food compost, which when burned release heat. Biomass can also be converted into fuels, known as biofuels , which can be used for transportation. 



Carbon is the building block of all life on earth. It is also the 15th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium and oxygen.

Carbon is often used to talk about carbon dioxide in the context of climate change. This is technically not true, as carbon is one component of carbon dioxide, which is primarily composed of oxygen.

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Carbon Dioxide

A gas derived from carbon. Humans and other living things release carbon dioxide when we breathe.

Carbon dioxide becomes a poisonous gas when there is too much of it in the air. It is one of the seven greenhouse gasses which contribute to heating the planet.

Carbon tax

A carbon tax is a fee imposed on the carbon content of fossil fuels, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It incentivizes businesses and individuals to shift to cleaner energy sources and adopt energy-efficient practices. Revenue generated can be used for climate mitigation efforts or returned to citizens through dividends or tax cuts.

(Also see CBAM)


CBAM, or Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, is a policy tool proposed by the EU to tackle carbon leakage and ensure fairness in the global market. It imposes tariffs on imports from countries with lower carbon pricing or environmental standards, aiming to protect domestic industries and incentivize emission reductions worldwide.

Climate Anxiety

Also known as Eco Anxiety, it is a state of distress around the climate crisis, its effects and implications on our everyday lives. It can manifest as intrusive thoughts that negatively affect one's perspective on the future, sometimes going as far as to also affect one’s actions and decisions. A feeling of Climate Anxiety can for example manifest as uncertainty around having children.

We are not experts in mental health conditions and this is not a medical definition but rather one to create context around its use in debates on the climate crisis.

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Circularity is the practice of using materials continuously so they do not become waste. Materials are maintained through repair, refurbishment, reuse, recycling and manufacturing. A Circular Economy is one that supports this process. In contrast, a linear economy takes raw materials, processes them, encourages limited use, and turns them into waste.

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CO2 Emissions

A shorter term for carbon dioxide emissions — colloquially referred to as emissions — which result from natural processes and human activities, like burning fossil fuels or manufacturing cement. Carbon emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect, which causes the average global temperature to increase.

According to the Paris Agreement, the world must ‘hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’ if we want to stop the climate crisis from escalating. One way of working towards that goal is limiting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.


The most common weather conditions in a region — such as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds — throughout the year and averaged over a series of years. (Not to be confused with weather.)

The climate is currently in crisis due to an increase in global heating caused by human activity.

Climate Change

Climate Change is the term historically used to talk about the changing average temperatures in the atmosphere. We actively refrain from using the phrase ‘Climate Change.’ That is because change in itself is not inherently bad; the climate always has and always will change. However, when these changes happen at a rate that humans or other species cannot adapt to, they become a crisis. Change also indicates a more neutral state of the current situation, which is misleading.

Climate Stressors

Climate stressors are consequences of the climate crisis. Human-caused emissions create environmental changes by intensifying the severity and likelihood of natural events. We normally perceive climate stressors as disasters, unless we’re prepared to handle them. Climate stressors can, for example, include more frequent floods, droughts and cyclones.

These stressors can create or exacerbate certain vulnerabilities and inequalities in the world; for example, an extra drought can create more social conflict in an area which already struggles with water shortages.

Depending on where we live, how prepared our countries are and the resources we have access to, we will experience climate stressors differently.

Coastal flooding

When coastal processes, like waves or tides, flood the surrounding dry land. Coastal flooding is increasing due to rising sea levels — a phenomenon caused by the climate crisis. As the world heats, ice melts into global oceans. At the same time, global heating causes ocean water to increasingly expand. Together, these two elements make sea levels rise. As water levels get higher, coastal flood risk increases during regular high tides or coastal storms. Repeated coastal flooding causes recurring damage to infrastructure as well as coastal habitats.


A generic term describing rotating storms that can originate over water or on land. They are caused by a combination of factors, such as pre-existing weather disturbances, warm oceans, moisture, and light winds. If the right conditions are in place, they create violent winds, large waves, torrential waves, and/or floods.

Hurricanes and tornadoes are both types of cyclones.

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Deep Tech

Also known as Hard Tech, is a family of technology rooted in significant engineering and scientific challenges, usually requiring significant R&D investments over a long period of time. The successful development of these technologies are usually expected to have high value to society. The primary risk in investing in the development of these technologies is technical risk – will these technologies be technical feasible. The development of these technologies is usually the domain of start-ups. Examples of Deep or Hard Tech include Artificial Intelligence, robotics and quantum computing.


A decentralized environmental movement that advocates for global coordination to redistribute wealth to improve human and planetary well-being. The movement views this as the best alternative to the current system, which it considers a tireless effort of pursuing economic growth to improve human well-being for only some people at the expense of the planet.

The word degrowth is a direct translation from the French word, décroissance, whose meaning refers to a river going back to normal after a flood. While its English translation is quite aggressive and doesn’t have the same connotation of balance as latin-language translations of it has, the movement has embraced it as a provocative term to challenge the idea that economic growth is necessary for the improved well-being of people.

Direct Air Capture (DAC)

Direct Air Capture is a method to capture carbon directly from the air anywhere in the world. This is in contrast to other forms of carbon capture that occur at the point of emissions.


An extended period of unusually little rainfall that creates a water shortage. Droughts develop slowly, which makes it difficult to realize they’re happening.

The technical term of drought is defined by the Palmer Drought Severity Index. It’s a measurement of dryness that’s presented on a scale from 0 to -4, and is based on recent precipitation and temperature. Typically, 0 means normal conditions for the area, while -4 means severe drought.

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End of life

End of life refers to the stage where a product reaches the end of its usable life cycle. It involves disposal, recycling, or repurposing to minimize environmental impact. Proper management at this stage ensures resource conservation, waste reduction, and adherence to sustainability principles, promoting a circular economy and minimizing landfill waste.

Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

An index that evaluates how effective any given country is at taking action against human-caused climate change compared to agreed-upon climate targets. It ranks 180 countries on 32 performance indicators in categories like air quality, waste management, biodiversity and habitat, pollution, and more.

This results in a score that ranges from 0-100.

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Excessive Rainfall

Rainfall (or another form of precipitation) that exceeds the norm for a particular area. Other stressors, such as increasing temperature, can make excessive rainfall even more intense.

The technical term of excessive rainfall is defined by the Palmer Drought Severity Index; it’s a measurement of wetness that’s presented on a scale from 0 to 4. It is based on recent precipitation and temperature. On this scale, 0 means normal conditions for the area, while 4 means severe wetness or rainfall.

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A general term for overflowing water that can happen inland or along coastlines (coastal flooding). Floods can be caused by natural events such as tsunamis and excessive rainfall, but also by humans changing how nature stores or removes excess water. An example of this is when we disturb wetlands to build homes.

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Food systems

Refers to all of the players, elements and activities that are involved in growing, processing and eating food, as well as their effects on the environment and the socio-economic well-being and health of people.

A healthy and sustainable food system is one that can support nutrition for all current and future people, does not damage the environment and is profitable, thereby supporting reliable, safe jobs. Our global food system today does not meet all three standards.

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Geoengineering involves deliberate manipulation of Earth's climate system to counteract global warming. Methods include solar radiation management, such as spraying aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight, and carbon dioxide removal techniques. While controversial due to potential risks and ethical concerns, geoengineering offers possible solutions to mitigate climate change impacts.

Global heating/warming

The long-term heating of the Earth’s climate system due to human activities — primarily burning fossil fuels. This process increases greenhouse gasses that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, which makes the global average temperature rise.

Historically, this phenomenon has been known as Global Warming. But today, we know that using the term ‘global heating’ is more accurate as it more closely reflects the process occurring without sounding like a nicer summer.


A term most often used in a branding or market activity to imply that a company, product or service is friendly to the environment. It has no official definition and therefore is often used to mislead.

We actively refrain from using this term with the exception of the Green Transition, which is an aspirational destination that describes a shift towards an economy that is sustainable for both planetary and human well-being.

Greenhouse Effect

A natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. When the sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, some of it is reflected back while the rest is absorbed and re-radiated by greenhouse gasses. Human activities are increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere — which contributes to global heating.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Gasses that contribute to global heating. The gasses are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per Capita

GDP is the total monetary value of all of the goods and services produced within a country's borders in a specific time period. It provides an overview of any given country’s economic status. GDP per capita, on the other hand, gives an overview that is easier to compare with other countries: it divides the GDP by the number of citizens.

It’s projected that a persistent increase in average global temperature by 0.04 degrees Celsius per year will reduce global GDP per capita by 7.22% by 2100.


Heat pump

A device that transfers heat from one location to another, often used for heating or cooling buildings. Heat pumps operate efficiently by extracting heat from the air, ground, or water, contributing to energy conservation and reducing carbon emissions.

Heat Wave

A prolonged period of excessively hot and sometimes humid weather compared to what’s considered normal for a certain region. Global heating is exacerbating heat waves, which negatively impact people and ecosystems. Heat waves hinder the livelihoods and wellbeing of non-urban communities; they also burden health and emergency services and strain water, energy and transportation — leading to power shortages. Heat waves can also cause farmers to lose their crops or livestock, which compromises food security.


Impact Investing

An investment approach that seeks to generate positive social and environmental impacts alongside financial returns. Impact investing supports businesses and projects addressing climate change, social inequality, and other global challenges.




Low Carbon

Refers to activities, technologies, or processes that generate minimal carbon dioxide emissions or have a lower overall carbon footprint. Adopting low-carbon practices is essential for mitigating climate change and promoting sustainable development.



A localized energy system that can operate independently or in conjunction with the main power grid. Microgrids often incorporate renewable energy sources, energy storage, and advanced control systems. They enhance energy resilience, reduce carbon emissions, and contribute to a more sustainable energy infrastructure.


Activities that limit further contributions to the climate crisis, such as by decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere or stopping actions that damage biodiversity. The term mitigation is one of two key terms (the other being adaptation) used to describe what should be done by countries as part of their commitments to the Paris Agreement, the most recent significant international climate agreement.



A state where the amount of greenhouse gases emitted is equal to the amount removed from the atmosphere. Achieving net-zero emissions is a critical goal in combating climate change, requiring businesses to offset emissions through activities such as reforestation and carbon capture.

Natural Disasters

Used quite commonly to describe phenomena such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires, etc. However, these natural events only become disasters when the presence of humans interfere with them, often resulting in significant economic damage and sometimes in injury or death. By calling these events natural, we absolve our own responsibility in contributing to the social, economic and political contexts that contribute to making these events disasters. The term also indicates that these events are inevitable and disregard people’s capabilities in preventing the damage they create. We therefore refrain from using this term.

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Ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE)

Ocean alkalinity enhancement involves increasing the pH of seawater by adding alkaline substances like calcium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. This process aims to mitigate ocean acidification caused by excess carbon dioxide absorption, promoting marine ecosystem health and aiding in carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.


Compensating for greenhouse gas emissions by investing in projects that reduce or capture an equivalent amount of emissions elsewhere. Offset projects may include renewable energy initiatives, afforestation, or sustainable development projects. Offsetting is a strategy to achieve carbon neutrality.

Ozone Layer

The layer of the Earth’s atmosphere responsible for absorbing radiation from the sun and keeping the Earth’s atmosphere in balance. The ozone layer is thinning due to increasing concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals and greenhouse gas emissions. This contributes to global heating.


Paris Agreement

An international treaty adopted in 2015 that aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement outlines commitments by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to renewable energy, and enhance climate resilience.

Plastic Neutrality

A concept focused on balancing the environmental impact of plastic usage by removing or recycling an equivalent amount of plastic from the environment. Businesses can achieve plastic neutrality by investing in initiatives that address plastic waste, contributing to a circular and sustainable economy.

Planetary boundaries

Planetary boundaries are critical environmental limits within which humanity can operate safely to maintain Earth's stability. These boundaries include climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, and more. Transgressing these boundaries risks irreversible environmental damage, threatening the planet's habitability and undermining human well-being.


The number of people per any given location. Population growth is now seen as the main driver behind the climate crisis, partly because more people means more consumption — which increases emissions from humans.

PPM (parts per million)

A standard method of representing how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere. Parts per million is a fraction that results from the number of molecules of carbon dioxide divided by the number of all molecules in the air.

In 2019, the global average of atmospheric carbon dioxide hit a record high of 409.8 ppm. The safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is a maximum of 350 ppm.




When something is recyclable, it means that it is able to be recycled. It does not mean that it has derived from recycled materials. A product is more likely to be recyclable if it is made with fewer different types of materials that can be easily separated. Some materials, even if they are labeled as recyclable or meet the conditions to be recycled, are not recyclable in plastic. For example, some plastics are too weak to be recycled (e.g., saran wrap). Other issues with plastics include their vast diversity that not all recycling centers can process.

For many materials there is an inverse relationship between recyclability and emissions required to source the raw material. For example, aluminum is extremely intensive to mine, but can be recycled almost indefinitely into itself.


Distinct from recyclable, if something is made of recycled materials that means that either in part or in whole the materials have already been used elsewhere, either as a waste product of a production process or as an earlier product itself. The process of recycling usually diminishes the product value. Also referred to as a Recyclate.

Just because something is made from recycled materials, does not mean that it is recyclable again, as the recycling process usually involves breaking down materials even further, sometimes to the extent that they cannot be used again. Because of weaker raw materials in recycled products, additional binding agents are typically needed, which can make recycling again even more difficult, as it would require separating the raw materials.


Regeneration or regenerative are terms that derive from agricultural practices, but are increasingly applied in many non-agricultural contexts, such as to describe business operations, practices or products. Regeneration as a design or business approach is a mindset that puts life at the center. It drives decision-making by considering what it takes for all life to renew and thrive. It forces us to consider whole systems – from our ecosystems to our economic systems. This mindset manifests from two perspectives: turning off the tap on practices that harm life and biodiversity; and designing more solutions that enable life and biodiversity to thrive.


The ability of a system or community to withstand, adapt to, and recover from environmental or economic disruptions. Building resilience is crucial in the face of climate change impacts, helping businesses and communities navigate challenges and ensure long-term sustainability.

For many materials there is an inverse relationship between recyclability and emissions required to source the raw material. For example, aluminum is extremely intensive to mine, but can be recycled almost indefinitely into itself.


Sea Level Rise

An increase in the level of the world’s oceans due to global heating. When we release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, oceans absorb the majority of the heat; as the water becomes warmer, it expands, and ocean levels rise. In addition, global heating causes glaciers and ice sheets to melt fast; the more they melt, the more that ocean levels rise.

Solar geoengineering

Solar geoengineering aims to cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight away from the planet. Proposed methods include injecting reflective aerosols into the atmosphere or deploying mirrors in space. While it could potentially offset global warming, solar geoengineering raises concerns about unintended consequences, governance, and ethical implications.


The word sustainability is often misunderstood and overused. In the context of today’s world, where we are already experiencing the effects of the climate crisis, do we really want to sustain anything? When we talk about sustainability as an ambition, we use the term as defined by the Brundtland Commission in 1987: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

A set of 17 global goals established by the United Nations to address various social, economic, and environmental challenges. The SDGs provide a framework for businesses to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world, aligning their operations with broader global objectives.



At its most basic level, technology is the application of knowledge to practical use, in a way that is repeatable. Computers might come to mind when thinking of technology, but paper and the abacus are also forms of technology.

Temperature Change

Temperature that deviates from the norm. The temperature unit we use in Climate Breakdown is Celsius. Temperature change becomes a climate stressor when human activity pushes it to extremes, such as unusually hot or cold conditions. A heatwave is a prolonged period of excessively high temperature compared to what’s considered normal for a certain region.

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The process of transforming waste materials or unwanted products into items of higher value or quality. Upcycling reduces the environmental impact of waste by giving discarded materials a new purpose. Businesses incorporating upcycling contribute to circular economy principles.


Voluntary Carbon Market

A marketplace where companies and individuals voluntarily purchase carbon credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Participants in the voluntary carbon market invest in projects that reduce or capture emissions, contributing to overall carbon neutrality.



Any material, object or otherwise that its owner either cannot or does not want to continue using.

Water Scarcity

A condition where the demand for freshwater exceeds the available supply. Water scarcity is a global challenge exacerbated by climate change, population growth, and unsustainable water management practices. Businesses addressing water scarcity prioritize water conservation and responsible water use in their operations.


A fire that happens in a natural setting, such as a forest or grassland. Wildfires can be triggered by various natural or human causes. Many wildfires are a natural part of an environment’s lifecycle or are manufactured as controlled burns to prevent uncontrollable wildfires.

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Zero Waste

A philosophy and lifestyle aimed at minimizing waste generation and diverting as much waste as possible from landfills. Businesses adopting zero-waste practices focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling materials, contributing to a circular economy and mitigating environmental impacts.

Zero-Emission Vehicles

Vehicles that produce no tailpipe emissions during operation, typically powered by electricity or hydrogen fuel cells. Zero-emission vehicles play a crucial role in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable mobility landscape.