It's important to understand climate change vocabulary if you want to read the news in English or participate in serious discussions about science, politics, or human affairs. The reading selections and practice activities below will give you the vocabulary you need.
These short, mostly simple articles explain the basic concepts of climate change, and give you the vocabulary to talk about it. Each time you read a new word you get a little better understanding of how and when it is used. That's why one of the best ways to build vocabulary is to read a number of different perspectives on the same issue.
After reading, doing something with new vocabulary (putting the words into groups, associating the new words with words you already know, matching words and meanings, or using them in almost any way) enables your memory to form lasting connections.
Background: some effects of climate change.
Key vocabulary for understanding weather, climate, and global warming.
This article discusses areas of certainly (climate change is happening, and human activities are pushing it) and of disagreement (how much? how fast? is it reversible?) among climate scientists.
Compare this article with the pictures and ideas in this TED talk. Are they saying the same thing? It’s great English practice if you can summarize three key thoughts from the TED talk or the article.
Voice of American (Learning English) News added an article on scientist worries about possibly reduced progress on climate change after the 2016 American election. They also have a useful glossary explaining less common words in the article.
Now that you have seen examples of how these words are used, it’s time to practice them. One way to practice vocabulary is to group words into categories. Which of the words listed below are related to weather? Which are causes of climate change? Which are effects? Which ones are verbs? (Some of those can also be nouns.)
Don’t stress over this. Treat it as a game—making connections that will help you remember any new words.
adapt, affect, area, climate change, consequences, drought, effects, emissions, flooding, fossil fuels, global, global warming, greenhouse gases, hurricanes, impact, increase, precipitation, reduce, region, storms, temperature
Weather Words Causes of Climate Change Effects of C.C. Verbs
Can you find two sets of synonyms? (effect and 2 related words; region and one synonym)
There are also two antonyms or opposites: increase and reduce.
The answers are at the bottom of the page, but please don’t look until you have tried to list them yourself.
Match most of the words in the vocabulary list above to their meanings (You can just write the letter and then the word on a piece of paper, to check when you finish):
A. major tropical storms,
B. effects of an action,
C. rain & snow
D. an area or part of a country or of the world
E. to make needed changes to adjust to changing conditions
F. water suddenly covering areas that are usually dry land
G. get bigger
H. make smaller
I. gases or chemicals released into the atmosphere
J. make a difference (to something or someone)
K. extended dry period
L. energy sources like petroleum, coal, and gas
M. relating to the whole earth
N. a major effect
O. a measure of how hot or cold something is
P. gases like CO2 and methane that trap heat and contribute to global warming
Causes of Climate Change
Effects of C.C.
(also rising sea levels-- not on vocab. list)
(impact and increase can also be nouns.)
(Don’t worry if your list is not quite the same a mine. This is not a right-or-wrong exercise, but a chance to think about the relationships between words—which is one of the best ways to add new words to your personal vocabulary—by relating them to words you already know.)
synonyms: effects, consequences, and impacts
A. hurricanes- major tropical storms,
B. consequences—effects of an action,
C. precipitation- rain & snow
D. region- an area or part of a country or of the world
E. adapt- to make needed changes to adjust to changing conditions
F. flooding- water suddenly covering areas that are usually dry land
G. increase- get bigger
H. reduce- make smaller
I. emissions- gases or chemicals released into the atmosphere
J. affect- make a difference (to something or someone)
K. drought- extended dry period
L. fossil fuels- energy sources like petroleum, coal, and gas
M. global- relating to the whole earth
N. impact – a major effect
O. temperature- a measure of how hot or cold something is
P. greenhouse gases- gases like CO2 and methane that trap heat and contribute to global warming
If you are interested in reading or practicing some more difficult vocabulary related to climate change, see the gapfill exercises in Disaster Assistance Vocabulary Exercises eand conservation terminology (on global warming).