Incorporating Climate Change Considerations in Environmental Assessment: General Guidance for Practitioners

Glossary of Terms

Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished, including anticipatory and reactive adaptation, private and public adaptation, and autonomous and planned adaptation.
Adaptive Management
Adaptive management is a systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of operational programs. Adaptive management also provides a framework for actively responding to any inaccurate forecasts and ineffective mitigation measures.
Carbon Sinks
see Sinks
Climate Change
Defined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as: "a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods."
Climate Change Impacts
A series of changes within the overall global climate system, brought about as a result of increased atmospheric concentrations of GHGs. These impacts may have far-reaching and unpredictable environmental, social, and economic consequences, and may include: global sea level rise, increases in severe weather events, and changes in precipitation.
Climate Change Parameters
The measurable physical properties of climate. Where climate is the average pattern of weather for a particular region, this average is commonly taken over a 30-year time period. Climatic elements include precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind velocity, phenomena such as fog, frost, hail storms, etc.
Climate Variability
The year-to-year fluctuation in the climate record.
Confidence Levels
A level of confidence as defined in the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Technical Summery: Impacts, Adaptation, Vulnerability representing the degree of scientific consensus based on the collective expert judgment of observational evidence, modeling results, and theory. In this paper:
  • Very high: 95% or greater consensus
  • High: 67-95%
  • Medium: 33-67%
  • Low: 5- 33%
  • Very Low: 5% or less
The components of the Earth and their interacting natural systems, and includes:
  • land, water and air, including all layers of the atmosphere; and
  • all organic and inorganic matter and living organisms.
Environmental Assessment
A systematic process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the broad environmental effects of proposed undertakings before irrevocable decisions are made.
Environmental Assessment Practitioner
see Practitioner
Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC)
The agreement signed by 154 countries, including Canada, at the Earth Summit in 1992, under which climate change is monitored and addressed globally.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
Gas that accumulates in the earth's atmosphere and traps heat, thus contributing to the greenhouse effect. The major GHGs responsible for causing climate change are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N20). The Kyoto Protocol also addresses hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
GHG Emissions
Releases of GHG, from either natural sources or from human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation, industrial processes, or transportation.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
A body made up of the world's leading climate scientists, established in 1988 by the UN Environment Program and the World Meteorological Association to assess the scientific research on climate change and its environmental and economic impacts.
A catastrophic release of water from a glacier. Jökulhlaups or outburst floods may originate from trapped water in cavities inside a glacier or at the margins of glaciers or from lakes that are dammed by flowing glaciers.
Mitigation Measures
Measures to eliminate, reduce or control the adverse environmental effects of a project, including restitution for any damage to the environment caused by such effects through replacement, restoration, compensation or any other means. Mitigation measures may extend beyond the individual project being assessed, and Canada itself, as in international emission credit trading recognized under the Climate Change Plan for Canada. In which case, additional project-specific measures may not be necessary.
When a new technology is introduced or activity undertaken that reduces emissions or removes GHG from the atmosphere, a credit or "offset" could be created within an offset system. For example, if the mass planting of trees meets all the conditions for a project in an offset system, then the resulting measured, reported and verified carbon sink could be sold as offset credits.
A person involved in some aspect of the conduct or the direction of an environmental assessment. A practitioner could be a proponent, a representative of the government or have some other affiliation. This guidance does not distinguish between government and proponent roles in environmental assessments because those roles vary under different environmental assessment regimes.
An undertaking in relation to a physical work, such as any proposed construction, operation, modification, decommissioning, or abandonment, or any physical activity not relating to a physical work that is listed in the Inclusion List Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate-related stimuli.
Sinks (Carbon Sinks)
Any activity, process or mechanism that removes a GHG from the atmosphere, such as oceans, forests, soils and wetlands. Human activities can either enhance sinks (i.e. help to store additional carbon) or release existing stored carbon (e.g., deforestation). Activities that protect and enhance carbon storage can be supported as two aspects of an overall climate change strategy.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)
Is generally used to refer to a component of Aboriginal traditional knowledge about the environment (e.g., weather, geology, biology) and the use of the environment (e.g., hunting and gathering). It is governed by community beliefs and values, and thus TEK is an integral part of a community's social, cultural, and spiritual framework. TEK is held by a community, although different segments of a community may hold different types of TEK. It is living knowledge. TEK is added to, and subtracted from, and therefore changes over time.
Valued Ecosystem Component (VEC)
Any part of the environment that is considered important by the proponent, public, scientists and government involved in the assessment process. Importance may be determined on the basis of cultural values or scientific concern.