Terms & Definitions

To engage with the proposed solutions in the City's Climate Action Plan fully, please review the following key terms and definitions.

General terms

Climate change:
The long-term changes in the average weather patterns that historically defined Earth’s local, regional, and global climates.

Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the early 20th century are primarily driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas level in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature. Key indicators of climate change from the data record include: global land and ocean temperature increases; rising sea levels; ice loss at Earth’s poles and mountain glaciers; frequency and severity of extreme weather events like hurricanes, heatwaves, droughts, and floods; and cloud and vegetation cover changes. These changes have a broad range of observed effects for systems and communities across the world (NASA).

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:
A gas that absorbs and traps heat in the atmosphere. Some common GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases.

Climate action plan:
A comprehensive roadmap that outlines specific activities that a government or institution will undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate mitigation:
Efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases.

Climate adaptation:
Anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimize damage or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise.

Carbon neutrality:
Reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with removal.

Carbon sequestration:
Long-term removal or capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through natural or artificial means.

Science-based targets:
Intended climate policy goals based on the physical characteristics of the earth's atmosphere and how we expect atmospheric changes to affect the biosphere. A science-based climate target sets a rate of climate action aligned with keeping average global temperature increases below a specified level of increase (such as 2°C) compared to pre-industrial temperatures. 

Emissions-specific terms

Community greenhouse gas inventory:
A quantitative estimation of greenhouse gas emissions for which the community as a whole is responsible for in a given year. An inventory typically includes multiple sectors, including residential, commercial, industrial, transportation/mobile emissions, and waste. A community greenhouse gas inventory is the sum of local and imported emissions.

Local emissions:
Emissions generated by and in a specific location, in this case, the City of Edmonds.

Imported emissions:
Emissions that are generated outside of the community during the production of goods, food, fuels, and service products consumed by residents of Edmonds.

Refrigerant loss:
Leaks of refrigerants from air conditioning systems that contribute to climate change because refrigerants are powerful greenhouse gases. Refrigerant loss and leakage also leads to less energy-efficient appliances, leading to higher energy and service costs.

MT CO2e:
Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – a unit of measure. Most greenhouse gases are more potent than carbon dioxide. In order to calculate and compare emissions easily, all gases are calculated and combined into a carbon dioxide equivalent, typically measured in metric tons.

Energy-specific terms

Solar Power:
The conversion of energy from the sun into thermal or electrical energy.

Energy Intensity:
The measured quantity of energy required per unit output or activity. In other words, using less energy to produce a product reduces the intensity.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED):
 The most widely used green building rating system in the world. It is a third-party green building certification system that focuses on efficiency and delivering the triple bottom line of “people, planet, and profit.”

The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health (Zero Waste International Alliance).

Transportation-specific terms

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT):
A metric used in transportation planning to measure the cumulative mile traveled by all vehicles in a geographic region over a given time period.

Active transportation:
Any self-propelled, human-powered mode of transportation used to get to and from destinations. Active transportation can be any form of movement from walking to rolling.

Transit oriented development (TOD):
Urban design and land use that mixes commercial, residential, office and entertainment centered around or located near a transit station. Dense, walkable, mixed-use development near transit attracts people and adds to vibrant, connected communities (Federal Transit Administration).