Enhanced greenhouse effect a hot international topic
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Organic compounds made up of atoms of chlorine, fluorine and carbon. They were commonly used as refrigerants in refrigerators and air conditioners, as blowing agents in foam plastics, and as cleaners for computer circuit boards. CFCs do not occur naturally their increase in the atmosphere is entirely the result of human activity. Beginning in the 1940s there was a rapid increase in the rate of manufacture, and hence the escape, of CFCs. The realisation that they were responsible for ozone depletion in the stratosphere has led to their phasing out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol.
Conference of the Parties (COP). Comprises all countries that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP is responsible for implementing the objectives of the Convention and has been meeting regularly since 1995. More information can be found at Convention bodies (United Nations Convention on Climate Change).
El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). A sporadic climatic phenomenon that occurs because of changes in the usual atmospheric pressure patterns and in the sea surface temperature in parts of the Pacific Ocean. The results include the substantial reduction of the normal upwelling off the Peruvian coast, excessive rain in western South America, and droughts in Australia and parts of Indonesia.
enhanced greenhouse effect. An increase in the natural process of the greenhouse effect, brought about by human activities, whereby greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrous oxide are being released into the atmosphere at a far greater rate than would occur through natural processes and thus their concentrations are increasing. Also called anthropogenic greenhouse effect or climate change.
global warming. An increase in the average temperature of the Earth's surface. Global warming is one of the consequences of the enhanced greenhouse effect and will cause worldwide changes to climate patterns.
greenhouse effect. The trapping and build-up of heat in the lower atmosphere near a planet's surface. Some of the heat flowing back towards space from the Earth's surface is absorbed by water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and other gases in the atmosphere. If the atmospheric concentration of these gases rises, then theory predicts that the average temperature of the lower atmosphere will gradually increase. The greenhouse effect in part explains the temperature differences of Mars, Venus and Earth.
halocarbons. Compounds of carbon combined with one or more of the elements called halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine). Halocarbons containing fluorine, chlorine and bromine contribute to ozone depletion and to the enhanced greenhouse effect.
Kyoto Protocol. The third session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, resulting in the Kyoto Protocol. This working agreement of the signatories commits developed countries to reduce their collective emissions of six greenhouse gases by at least 5 per cent of 1990 levels by 2012. The Kyoto agreement became legally binding on 16 February 2005 when 132 signatory countries agreed to strive to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. More information can be found at the official The Kyoto Protocol site.
Montreal Protocol. An intergovernmental document signed by many countries in 1987 (and regularly revised) which established restrictions for the manufacture and use of ozone-depleting substances in an international effort to reduce ozone depletion. The text of the Protocol with the 1990 and 1992 amendments is available.
Page updated August 2006.