Energy Terms and Definitions

carbon dioxide, CO2, a colorless odorless greenhouse gas produced as a waste product by living things.  It is created when when fossil fuels are burned.

carbon emissions, release of carbons into the astmosphere usually from the burning of fossil fuels, often measured in metric tons.

climate change,  any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for decades or longer.

energy sources, what we use to get energy.  Non-renewable sources, such as coal, oil and natural gas, are the sources for almost all electrical generation and many other kinds of energy world-wide.  Hydropower (from dams), solar power, and wind power are renewable sources of energy.

fossil fuels, fuels formed from the decayed remains of prehistoric plants and animals that have built up underground over eons of time.  The main fossil fuels we use are coal, oil, and natural gas.  They consist mainly of carbon and hydrogen, so they are called hydrocarbons.  When burned, they release CO2 into the atmosphere, the most important greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.  Other pollutants include nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone.  Fossil fuels are expected to run out over the next 300 years.

global warming, average inicrease in the temperature of the atmosphere that contributes to changes in global climate patterns.

greenhouse gas, or GHG, any gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor.  Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.

non-renewable resource, a resource such as coal, oil, and natural gas that cannot be renewed within our lifetime.

photovoltaics, PV, a technology for generating electricity from solar energy.

renewable resource, a resource that is constantly being renewed or is always available, such as solar radiation and wind.

solar energy, the energy that is available to us from the sun.

sustainable society, a society that can be maintained indefinitely, whose practices do not jeopardize the viability of future generations.

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