Towards a Resilient Rhode Island:

Responding to climate change with leadership, innovation, and economic development

Jargon Buster

Adaptation: Adjusting to present and projected climate change in order to minimize potential damage, cope with consequences, and take advantages of any potential benefits of climate change. Even if we were to stop all global greenhouse gas emissions right now, we would still see effects of climate change that are already locked in like warming temperatures and rising sea levels. Adaptation means making sure our systems are ready for these inevitable changes.

Adaptive Management: A flexible decision-making process that allows for ongoing knowledge acquisition. Action is taken under the best available scientific information, but as we learn more the approach is continuously improved through monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment. This results in dynamic policy that functions in a changing climate.

Ecosystem Services: The benefits that ecosystems provide humans, including basic provisions such as food, water, wood and fiber, and medicine. Equally important ecosystem services include carbon sequestration, erosion control, pollination, nutrient cycling, soil formation, and primary productivity. Ecosystems also enrich our societies with recreational and ecotourism sites, and provide a basis for educational and spiritual values.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: When certain gases enter the atmosphere, they absorb energy and trap heat which is then reflected back to the earth’s surface. Four main gases contribute to the greenhouse gas effect:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted from burning fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation.
  • Methane (CH4) is emitted from agricultural practices, waste decay in landfills, and the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) is emitted from agricultural and industrial activities, waste decay, and fossil fuel combustion from transportation.
  • Fluorinated gases are extremely potent man-made gases emitted from industrial activity.
  • Learn more from the EPA.

Mitigation: Lessening the human impact on the climate system by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing ‘carbon sinks’ — such as forests — that absorb greenhouse gases.

Resilience: Ability of a social or ecological system to anticipate change, withstand shocks, and recover to an earlier — or hopefully, better — state.

Storm Surge: The excess height of the sea compared to expected tide levels due to a storm. During a storm, a surge results in high waves that can cause extensive damage to coastal homes and buildings.

Urban Heat Island Effect: The relative warmth of a city compared with surrounding rural areas. Cities often have fewer trees, extensive dark asphalt surfaces that absorb more atmospheric heat, increased pollution and aerosols, and other factors that contribute to this effect. Higher temperatures in cities have widespread effects, including increased costs and emissions for air conditioning, heat-related health risks, decreased water quality. Learn more from the EPA.