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The vocabulary

Environmental problems

The natural world


Useful verbs

Our effect on the natural world

When were the discussing the environment, its important not to forget that our actions have an
impact not only on us but on the natural world and other species. So, for example, certain species are
now endangered because of our actions. its not just because of hunting, but because we have
destroyed their natural habitats: they do not enough food or anywhere to live. If we carry on in this
way, the biodiversity of the planet is under threat.

I would have said that one of the most serious environmental problems today is of course pollution.
Its a very pressing green issue and if you travel to any of the large cities in China, for example, youll
find that there is very bad air pollution and there is a layer of smog hanging over the cities. Its just air
pollution, there is also water pollution. in many parts of the world, the quality of the water is not
good because rivers have been contaminated by all sorts of industrial waste, by chemicals and
fertilisers. And what we need to do is to recycle our waste and take care of the planet and try use
renewable resources where we possibly can.
Another extremely important green issue is of course energy. There are two points to be made here. The
first point is that the way we use energy is causing harm to the environment. Most of us get energy in
the form of electricity. This electricity is produced by power stations. These power stations emit all
sorts of dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide up into the atmosphere. And these gases cause acid
rain which does harm to our ecosystem and environment. the second point to make about energy is
we need to make sure that we are using energy in a sustainable way. There is a limit to the Earths
natural resources and there is a danger that we use so much energy the Earth is no longer going to be
able to provide us with sufficient coal and fossil fuels. What we need to do is look for more renewable
sources of energy such as wind or perhaps solar energy from the sun.

Global warming
Whats the greatest threat to the Earth today? Id have to say its probably a combination of global
warming and the greenhouse effect. I dont understand all the science behind it, but I understand its
to do with the build up of gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which means that the
planet is slowly but steadily getting warmer. and one of the results of this is that the polar icecap is
melting and the levels of the oceans are rising. And its caused I understand by deforestation,
particularly of rainforests and particularly in the Amazonian Basin. And what this means is that we
may be doing irreparable harm to the planet and the future of the planet for our children and our
childrens children looks really rather bleak.


Minamata disease.
is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning . Minamata disease was first
discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, in 1956

Deepwater Horizon explosion

Climate change
Talking about the size of the problem
An important group of climate vocabulary and ideas is to say how large the problem is:
crisis: Climate change is a crisis that cannot be ignored by governments.
record levels/amount: Despite the claims of some scientists, we are now producing record levels of
CO2 and there is no dispute about the connection between this and global warming.
disaster/disastrous: It is not an exaggeration to say that the effects of global warming are disastrous.
global: Although some areas are relatively unaffected now, climate change is a global problem.
irreversible: The major concern is that the effects of our actions on the climate will be irreversible.
long-term: The effects of our use of fossil fuels today may last for generations and it is almost certain
to have long-term consequences for humanity.

Negative Effects
This group of climate change vocabulary gives you language to explain what the effects are. As you
read through the examples note the different language I use for effects and probability.
ill-health: It sometimes goes unnoticed that there is a clear connection between climate change and ill-
floods/rainstorms: One result of the rising temperatures is that floods and rainstorms are now a
frequent occurrence.
the Polar ice cap: One major concern is that rising temperatures in the Arctic are causing the Polar
ice cap to melt, which in turn is leading to rising sea levels.
heatwaves and droughts: Most experts agree that there is an increased risk of heatwaves and other
extreme weather conditions.
the natural world: Climate change will not only have a severe impact on people, but also devastate
the natural world and lead to the extinction of important species.
food shortages: We are already seeing in many parts of the world that climate change is leading to
food shortages as a direct consequence of extreme weather conditions.
housing/homelessness: One side-effect of rising sea levels is that more and more people who live by
the coast will become homeless.
conflicts/wars: If no action is taken on climate change, then it is likely that there will be more conflicts
between nations, especially over water supplies.
cost: It has been shown that any delay in making emission cuts will increase the cost of reducing
carbon dioxide by almost 50%.

You may also need to discuss the causes of climate change too. You dont need any very technical
knowledge and this vocabulary should be enough. Again, note the cause language.
human activity: It is no longer possible to say that human activity does not affect weather conditions.
greenhouse gas emissions: If we are to halt climate change, we need to make substantial reductions
in greenhouse gas emissions.
power stations: One of the leading causes of climate change is the number of dirty power stations
using fossil fuels.
carbon emissions: Carbon emissions are still rising year by year and are at record levels.
illegal logging and deforestation: It should not be forgotten that illegal logging in the Amazon Basin
is still a major factor in climate change.
burning fossil fuels: Individuals can make a small contribution by not burning wood and other fossil
CO2: The root cause of much global warming is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Possible solutions
These words and phrases show different kinds of solutions. Some show what should be done (use more
renewable energy and invest money), others show how it should be done (quickly and together).
wind and solar power: An obvious solution is to deploy much more wind and solar power.
renewable energy: Wind farms and other sources of renewable energy will help to reduce Co2
emissions to an acceptable level.
international action/cooperation: International action on climate change could have a significant
quick/immediate action: Any action should be immediate because this is not a problem that can be
investment: There should be greater incentives to invest in renewables and to reduce the current
reliance on fossil fuels.
decommission power stations: It goes without saying that coal-fuelled power stations should be
protest/campaign: Individuals can help force governments to act by taking part in legal protests
against the continuing use of fossil fuels.
energy efficiency and waste: A greater emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing waste would
undoubtedly mean that less fuel was consumed.

Ways of taking action

Climate change is a problem that almost everyone can agree on. When you have a problem, you need
to take action. These words and phrases give you a variety of ways of saying that. Note the different
structures used with these verbs.
cope: It is clear that national governments are no longer able to cope by themselves with the
tackle: A global solution is necessary as only international bodies will be able to tackle climate
avert: Investment in renewable energy will help avert the impact of the CO2 emissions.
prevent: The only way to prevent a disaster is to reduce these emissions to zero.
act/take action: Governments should take decisive action to halt global warming.
fight/combat: A way needs to be found to make combatting global warming that is affordable.
sustainable and affordable: The key is to ensure that all countries around the world have the chance
to adopt energy

How individuals can help

You may be asked what we as individuals can do about climate change. Here are some ideas there are
plenty of them:
lobby MPs: If enough of us lobbied our MPs and other elected representatives then they would
have to bring in legislation.
participate in peaceful protests: Another possibility is to take part in marches and other
peaceful protests to apply pressure on governments and raise awareness of the issue..
community projects: In some areas there are small-scale community projects to encourage local
residents to install solar panels and, in some places, help pay for them.
share transport: We also have the responsibility to consider how we contribute to global warming by
making unnecessary car journeys. We can always cycle to work, have a joint school run with other
parents and even share a car on the daily commute to work.
diet and our carbon footprint: Reducing food wastage is perhaps the way individuals can minimise
their carbon footprint and so help global warming.
energy-efficient lightbulbs: Another small way in which we can use less energy is to switch to
energy efficient lightbulbs.
solar panels: There are an increasing number of solar panels on the market and these can not only
reduce energy bills but also mean that less carbon fuel is consumed.
heat insulation: Likewise, it is important that people insulate their houses well so that less gas and
electricity is consumed.