Glossary: How we talk about environmental sustainability
When you’re striving to have a positive impact on the world and your surroundings, language matters. As Mozilla is embarking on a more committed journey towards environmental sustainability, we are also heightening our attention and attuning our vocabulary to the challenges ahead of us. This glossary is set up to help us navigate questions around environmental sustainability – and we’ll continue refining and iterating as we learn and grow our responsibilities.
Climate crisis. Climate emergency.
- Climate change no longer accurately depicts the urgency of the situation we’re facing as a society. We intend to acknowledge that.
- That said, climate change is still the accurate scientific term to describe the changes occurring. The global rise in temperature (cf. global heating) drives and amplifies the extreme weather events we are witnessing, increasing intensity as well as frequency/duration of droughts, desertification, flooding, hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards and more. The longterm scientific observation of these events is called climate change.
- The scientific evidence that the climate is changing and that the crisis is amplified by human activity is so overwhelmingly clear that the self-described “climate scepticism” cannot be considered a fair description.
- Sustainable life on earth has at least three dimensions: economic wellbeing, social fulfilment, and a healthy environment. These dimensions are interconnected and can amplify or undermine each other. We acknowledge that taking responsibility cannot just be a numbers game, sustainability requires a culture change in how we live and ultimately how we build our technologies.
- The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identifies various scenarios and/or climate change projections in its report, ranging from below 2°C, up to 4°C and over 6°C. This average rise in temperature triggers many of the extreme weather events we’ve already been experiencing, aggravating their effects and the frequency with which they occur. Due to the severity of these changes, the IPCC urges stakeholders to cut emissions significantly to stay below the 2°C threshold. This threshold will not prevent the climate crisis. We’re already in that. Staying below this threshold merely means maintaining an environment livable for humans. Yet, the scientific consensus is making it undeniably clear; we’re at risk to miss this target. This means, earth is not just “warming”, it is heating up.
Greenhouse gas emissions.
- While a lot of emphasis has been placed on measuring our carbon footprints, global heating is caused by a combination of greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrogen oxides and others as well. Most of these gases have even more far-reaching effects than carbon dioxide, but they are less common. In addition, gases have different life cycles and feedback loops, in order to be sustainable, we need to pay attention to all of them.
- You’ll often see renewable, green, and clean energy used interchangeably. While there are various reasons for these preferences, we lean towards renewable as this is conceptually closer to our understanding of sustainability -- in order to stay within planetary boundaries and maintain a sustainable future, we must not use more than is renewable.
- You’ll occasionally hear green, carbon-neutral, fossil-free, or similar descriptions for a better-suited, future-oriented internet as well. They are not wrong. However, a sustainable internet isn’t just mindful of the environment, it is also built to sustain economic wellbeing and meaningful social connection.
Introductory reading and video material around climate change science is available here: https://community.citizensclimate.org/resources/item/19/51''
A collection of powerful images that help bring your messages around environmental sustainability to live, can be found here: https://climatevisuals.org/images