What is the difference between adaptation and mitigation?


100-year weather event 
A weather event with a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. 24 


The number of individuals of a species in a defined location.9 
A process in an organism where it adapts to a change in environmental conditions.1 
Changes in natural or human systems to prepare for actual or expected changes in the climate in order to minimise harm, act on opportunities or cope with the consequences.10
Adaptation Action Plan (AAP)
Under the proposed new Climate Change Act, nominated Ministers must prepare Adaptation Action Plans (AAPs) for key systems that are vulnerable to climate change impacts. AAPs will include an assessment of climate change-related vulnerability and risks to the system; an outline of roles and responsibilities for adaptation in the system; a list of actions to be implemented under the AAP; and a monitoring and evaluation plan to assess the effectiveness of the AAP.10 
Adaptive capacity 
The capability of a system, sector or social group to adjust to climate change, to minimise harm, to act on opportunities, or to cope with the consequences. 10 
A collection of very small solid or liquid particles that are suspended in the atmosphere. They can be from both human sources (burning of fossil fuels) or natural sources (wildfires, dust storms). Some aerosols can either warm or cool the atmosphere by absorbing energy (warming) or reflecting sunlight (cooling). 21 
Planting of trees to create a new forest in locations that historically did not have forests or where forests have been long absent. 23, 12 
Caused by human activities.22 
A gaseous envelope that surrounds the Earth consisting of mostly Nitrogen and Oxygen. Trace gases (argon, helium etc.) and greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane etc.) make up less than 2% of the atmosphere.7
Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU’s) 
Measurement of emissions reductions or carbon sequestration that is achieved by an eligible activity.
One unit is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2-e).13 


The variety of all living organisms, including diversity of variety of genetic information in organisms, variety of species and variety of habitats, ecological communities and ecological processes. 22 
Energy produced by converting biomass to electricity, heat, liquid fuels and fertilisers as a by-product through a process of either combustion, thermal decomposition, fermentation and digestion. Bioenergy systems operate in industries such as winemaking, pork, paper and timber industries.11 
Fuel produced from plants or animals in a solid, liquid or gaseous state. Biofuels include biogas, synthesis gas, biomethane, bioethanol and biodiesel.11 
Produced when organic matter is broken down in   an oxygen-free (anaerobic) environment. The composition varies according to the raw materials and processing methods however it primarily consists of methane, a flammable gas, and carbon dioxide, plus traces of other gases including nitrogen, hydrogen and hydrogen sulphide.11 
Biomass is organic matter that contains stored energy from the sun which can be unlocked to generate bioenergy. Examples include; agriculture residues, animal and human waste, timber and wood processing residues, organic wastes from industries, purpose-grown energy crops, woody weeds, algae and biodegradable municipal waste streams.11 
Produced when organic matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen. Biomethane replaces its fossil-fuel based equivalent methane. 11 
Geographic or climatic regions that experience similar weather, plants and animals, such as deserts, rainforests, wetlands. 9 
Black water event 
Occurs when organic material is washed into a waterway, bacteria then consumes the material and depletes the dissolved oxygen in the water. 22 
Built environment 
Human made or organised surroundings such as buildings, roads, bridges, traffic lights and power lines.12 


Carbon Abatement Contract  
A contract between the seller and the Clean Energy Regulator (the buyer). The seller must deliver a quantity of Kyoto Australian Carbon Credit Units to the buyer during the contracted period.5 
Carbon Abatement  
The reduction in carbon emissions or the reduction of carbon that is already in the atmosphere. 13 
Carbon Cycle 
The circulation of carbon in various forms through the atmosphere, organisms, ocean, plants and animals though various chemical, physical and biological processes, such as respiration, photosynthesis, decay and combustion. 21 
Carbon Farming Initiative 
A carbon offset scheme that helps famers and landholders benefit from carbon markets through carbon crediting mechanisms.20
Carbon Offset 
Compensating for CO2 emissions produced by your activity by funding or participation in efforts to remove equivalent amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. 4 
Carbon Sequestration 
Capture and storage of atmospheric carbon in plants, soil and oceans. Carbon can also be captured and injected into geological formations for storage. 22, 24 
Carbon Sink 
Natural or man-made processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere and therefore offsetting CO2 emissions, these include plants, soil and oceans.20 
Carbon dioxide equivalence (CO2-e) 
A way to measure greenhouse gas emissions, estimated by multiplying the amount of gas with the global warming potential of that gas. 6 
Carbon footprint 
The amount of greenhouse gases emitted by a person, family or business. It includes greenhouse gases directly emitted made by a person (heating, driving cars) as well as production of goods and services used (electricity, landfills, factories). 21 
Carbon neutral 
Where emissions released and emissions absorbed are equal. For example, biomass grown absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, burning the biomass will release CO2 again, if there is no net release of CO2 then it is carbon neutral. Companies may use carbon offsetting to reach their neutrality. 4 
Weather conditions averaged over a long period of time (many years) and can be expanded to future expectations of long term weather.3 
Climate Change 
Changes in the state of the climate, including an increase in extreme weather events, long-term changes in weather patterns and sea level rise, attributed directly or indirectly to human activity. 10 
Climate Projection 
A climate system simulated response to future emission scenarios using climate models. They differ to climate predictions due to their dependence on the emission scenario used which is based on assumptions.7 
Climate feedback 
An interaction where a disturbance in one climate process triggers a change in a second climate process. This change then trigger further feedback either positive or negative in the first.7 
Climate prediction 
An estimate of the evolution of the future climate e.g. seasonal, annual or long-term.23 
Climate variability 
Variations in climate statistics such as mean temperature, precipitation or frequency of extremes at temporal and spatial scales. Internal variability relates to processes within the climate system, while external variability relates to natural or anthropogenic external forces. Drivers include El Nino Southern Oscillation. 7 


The removal of forest to convert the land for non-forest purposes.20 
Land degradation results from climatic variations (drought) or human activities (overgrazing, over-cultivation, deforestation) that cause desert-like conditions in arid and semi-arid regions. 12 
A disruption in an ecosystem caused by temporary change in environmental conditions that result in short or long-term effects. Natural disturbances include fire or flood, anthropogenic disturbances include land clearing or introductions of an invasive species. 22 
The number and variety of a specified item found within a region. 9 
A period of abnormally dry weather for a long enough time to cause serious shortages both human use and ecosystems (such as drinking water and agriculture) in the affected area. 21 


Economic potential 
The cost-effective benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions or improving energy efficiency or creating. 23 
Ecosystem services 
Benefits created by ecological processes that has value to people such as fresh water, fertile soil and recreation. 9 
A geographical area made up of networks of interactions of living organisms with their physical environment such as air, soil, sunlight and water. 9 
El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) 
Global fluctuation of surface pressure, wind, sea surface temperature and rainfall. Measured by variation in ocean water surface pressure causing change in ocean surface temperature in the tropical Pacific Ocean. There are three phases; neutral, El Niño (warm phase) and La Niña (cold phase). 7 
El Nino 
The negative phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Associated with decreased rainfall for Australia, especially eastern areas. Observed by warm ocean currents off the coast of South America, warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific, colder than average sea surface temperature in the western Pacific and north of Australia. 3 
Emissions Permit 
Permit that allocates an entity to emit a specified amount of emissions. The permit is not transferable or tradable and can only be issues by an administrative authority. 23 
Emissions quota 
The total allowable emissions a country is allowed to emit under a particular framework. 23 
Emissions scenarios 
Illustrations of how future climate conditions will respond to differing quantities of greenhouse gases and aerosols from human and natural sources based on consistent assumptions of population growth, economic and technological development, driving forces and other factors.24 
The release of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.19 
Energy Efficiency 
The output of energy by a system or process compared to the energy input. 23 
The ability to do work, it can be stored or converted into other forms, it can be heat, light, motion or electricity. 21 
Process where a liquid such as water changes into a gas or vapour through molecules gaining energy when heated.19 
Extreme weather event 
A weather event such as heat waves, flood or drought that is rare in a location for that time of year. The occurrence of weather events over a certain time frame is averaged, weather events that fall outside of the 10th or 90th percentile is considered rare. 7 


Fire weather 
Weather conditions such as temperature, relative humidity and wind that favours ignition and sustains bushfires. 7 
Food chain 
The sequence of who eats who, starting with primary producers, through to primary and secondary consumers. 19 
Food security 
Where everyone has access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs.24 
Food web 
A system of who interconnected food chains depicting who eats who. 19 
Fossil fuels 
Created over large time periods from dead plant and animal material that has undergone transformations into carbon containing fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. 21 
The interface between different air density masses, usually between warm, moist air and cool, dry air. 19 


Mass of ice spreading down a mountain or through a valley. 19 
Global warming 
An increase in average temperature near the Earth’s surface. In the past it has occurred as a result of natural processes. More recently it is used to describe the warming as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities. 21 
Greenhouse gas 
Natural or anthropogenic gases that absorb heat in the atmosphere and emits radiation, warming the temperature of the lower atmosphere as concentrations rise, this is referred to as the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. 7 
Ground water 
Water that is naturally occurring between layers of rock below the Earth’s surface. 21 


Heat Stress 
Negative health effects of exposure to extreme heat or prolonged exposure to hot environments.24 
Heat wave 
A period of abnormally hot weather lasting for several days. 24 
Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) 
Greenhouse gases produced commercially, largely within refrigeration. These are curbed under the Kyoto Protocol. 23 


Ice cap 
A mass of ice and snow that covers large areas of land usually in the North and South poles.18 
Indian Ocean Dipole 
Variability in the Indian Ocean’s sea surface temperature caused by a zonal gradient of tropical sea surface temperature. 7 
Either an observation or calculation used to track environmental trends, recognise what influences the environment and detect the effects these have on ecosystems and society. 24 


Kyoto Protocol 
An international treaty adopted Kyoto, Japan on 11 December 1997. It legally binds agreed countries to reduce their man-made greenhouse gas emissions by a certain amount by set dates (initially 5% by 2012). 13 


La Nina 
The positive phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Associated with increased rainfall for Australia, especially the northern and eastern areas and increased probability for cyclones. Observed by cooling in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific and north of Australia.3 
Rapid movement of material such as soil, rock and debris downhill, often occurring with heavy rainfall, earthquakes or human disturbance. 23 


Adaptation action that adversely affects other systems, sectors or social groups, increases their vulnerability or increases greenhouse gas emissions. 10 
A colourless and odourless gas. It is produced through animal digestion, natural gas and oil, decaying plants, animals and waste and is mitigated under Kyoto Protocol. 23 
Reduces the speed and amount of future climate change by reducing emissions. 24 
Seasonal reversal of winds and rainfall in the tropical and subtropical areas caused by continental-scale land masses and ocean temperature differentials. 7 


Net zero emissions 
Overall equalisation of greenhouse gases produced and greenhouse gases taken out of the atmosphere.8 
Nitrous Oxide (NO2) 
A greenhouse gas curbed under the Kyoto Protocol. It is emitted during fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production, biomass burning and is found in fertilisers. 23 


Ocean Acidification  
Ocean waters becoming more acidic through absorption of carbon dioxide which forms carbonic acid and lowers the oceans pH. The acidity reduces shelled animals and plankton to form and maintain shells. 24 
Ozone Layer 
Ozone concentration is at its highest in the stratosphere, it extends is bout 12 to 40km. It protects the Earth from the suns radiation. 23 
A highly reactive colourless gas made up of three atoms of oxygen. In the upper atmosphere it protects the Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. In the lower atmosphere it acts as a greenhouse gas that is harmful to living organisms.3 


The climate that existed prior to modern record-keeping, it is usually measure with ice cores or tree rings. 24 
Paris Agreement 
A global, legally binding climate treaty that covers emissions reduction, adaptation and finance, and commits to limit global warming to well below 2oC above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement was negotiated at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2015, and has been signed by 194 countries. It entered into force on 4 November 2016. 10 
Ground that does not get above freezing for two consecutive years. 24 
Climate and seasonal cycles correlated with natural events such as flowers blooming, hibernation, migration and spawning.24 
Process where plants absorb carbon dioxide, water and sunlight to make food and grow, releasing oxygen in the process. 21 
Period prior to large-scale industrial activity around 1750.14 
Any form of water, liquid or solid such as rain, hail, mist or snow that falls to the ground from the clouds. 21 
The knowledge and capacity of governments, emergency management organisations, communities and individuals to effectively anticipate, respond to and recover from the impacts of likely or actual hazard events.10 
Primary Energy 
Energy in natural resources such as coal, sunlight or crude oil that has not been subject to anthropogenic transformation. 23 
Primary Production 
Operation of a business that includes activities such as plant or animal cultivation, fish or pearling or tree farming or felling. 2 
Indirectly measuring aspects of the climate from data collected from natural recorders such as, tree rings, ice cores, fossil pollen, ocean sediments, coral and historical data to extend our understanding of the climate beyond the instrumental records. 24 


A particle or wave of energy, common forms of radiation include radio and TV waves, X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation and visible light. 21 
Collection and processing of materials to make a new product, for example, aluminium cans melted down to make new cans. 21 
Replanting forests on land that had been forested before being cleared and converted to other use. 23 
Renewing a stand of trees naturally through seed dispersal from adjacent trees or artificially planting. 23 
Renewable energy 
Energy from non-carbon or carbon neutral sources such as geothermal, wind, photovoltaic, hydro, solar, and biomass. 23 
Renewable resource 
A natural resource that can be produced, regrown, or reused fast enough to keep up with how quickly it is used. 21 
The ability to respond to and recover from significant events such as fire, floods or disturbance. 9 
The process in living organisms where organic matter is converted to carbon dioxide, releases energy and consumes oxygen. 23 
The chance of something happening that will have an impact on an objective, system, sector, asset, activity or community. A risk is often discussed in terms of the event (for example, a weather event or climatic change), the consequence of the event (positive or negative), and the likelihood it will happen. Residual risk is the remaining chance of something happening after action has been taken to reduce the risk. 10 
Water that travels over the soil, draining into the stream systems instead of evaporating or being absorbed into ground water. 23 


The concentration of dissolved minerals in water, usually referring to salt. 19 
Saltwater intrusion 
Fresh surface water or ground water that is displaced by the advancement of saltwater due to its
greater density. 23 
Sea-level rise 
An increase in the mean level of the ocean due to the effects of climate change.18 
A wall or embankment built along a shore to prevent erosion caused from the waves. 23 
Air pollution caused by chemical reactions of various pollutants emitted from different sources. 21 
Solar radiation 
Electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. 19 
Southern Oscillation 
Indication of the development and intensity of La Nina and El Nino events, calculated using pressure differences.3 
Storm Surge 
Temporary and abnormal rise in sea water level due to the presence of a storm. 3 
A layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, below the mesosphere and above the troposphere. It is 35kms thick and contains the ozone layer. 17 
A rise in water level so that formerly dry areas of land become inundated.15 
Made by pyrolysis or gasification of biomass and contains carbon monoxide, hydrogen, some carbon dioxide and a small proportion of contaminants. It is used primarily to generate electricity but can be used as a transport fuel.11 


Thermal Expansion 
The increase in volume of a material e.g. water, as it warms, this is one cause of rising sea levels. 21  
Tipping Point 
A point where a series of changes in climate trigger a significant environmental event. 24 
The process of water evaporating from plants. 24 
The lowest layer of the atmosphere, it contains the air we breathe and the clouds. It is between 8-14kms thick depending on location.17 


Ultraviolet (UV) radiation 
Electromagnetic radiation produced by the sun. It is invisible to the naked eye. 21 
The process of converting land from its natural state to cities.23  


The degree to which a system, sector or social group is susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change; vulnerability depends on the nature of the climate changes to which the system is exposed, its sensitivity to those changes and its adaptive capacity. 10 


Water Security 
Sufficient availability of reliable quality water to sustain human health, livelihoods, and the environment. 24 
Water stress 
When demand for quality water supply exceeds what is available.24 
Wind Turbine 
A device that converts the kinetic energy of wind into electricity. The wind spins a set of blades connected to a generator.21 


  1. Australian Institute of Marine Science, ‘Biodiversity’, retrieved May 12, 2020, from 
  2. Australian Taxation Officer, 2018, ‘Primary Production Activities’, retrieved May 27 from 
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  15. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2019, ‘Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low-Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities’, retrieved May 14, 2020, from Chapter 4: Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low-Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities — Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate ( 
  16. Morton, S, Sheppard, A & Lonsdale, M 2014, Biodiversity, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.  
  17. NASA, ‘Space Place’, retrieved May 21, 2020, from 
  18. National Geographic, ‘Resource Library’, retrieved May 14, 2020, from 
  19. TERC, 2020, ‘Climate Glossary’, retrieved April 8, 2020, from 
  20. The Treasury, 2018, ‘Glossary’, retrieved May 14, 2020, from 
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  24. U.S. Global Change Research Program, ‘Glossary’, retrieved April 2, 2020, from  




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