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Climate Terms and Tools

Facilities face many challenges related to climate change, including reducing emissions, adapting to new conditions, and increasing resilience. This page serves as a primer for building personnel who are new to the topic or looking for additional resources.


Understanding climate change's unique vocabulary is the first step. The definitions below have been compiled by federal experts in the field.





For further information, see the following federal government resources:

For information on federal government GHG emissions, see the Department of Energy's Federal Facility Reporting Requirements and Performance Dataopens in new window and these datasets from the Comprehensive Annual Energy Data and Sustainability Performance report:

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Climate Change

Climate change refers to significant and lasting alteration of climatic patterns (e.g., temperature, precipitation, wind). It may result from: natural factors, such as changes in the sun's intensity or slow changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun; natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation); and human activities that change the atmosphere's composition (e.g., through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g., deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification). During the 20th century, human activities released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gasses into the atmosphere, resulting in an increase in the rate of climate change.

EPA | Climate Changeopens in new window

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