Basic IPCC terms: Mitigation, Adaptation, tipping point, etc.


According to the IPCC definition, Mitigation (of climate change) is a human intervention to reduce emissions or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. In simple words, stopping climate change from getting worse.

Some ways to mitigate climate change include using solar and wind power instead of coal-fired power plants; making buildings, appliances and vehicles more energy efficient; and designing cities, so people have to drive less. Protecting forests and planting trees also help because trees absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and lock them away.


According to IPCC definition, adaptation in human systems means, the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.

On the other hand, adaptation in natural systems means, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects.

In simple words, adaptation means making changes to live with the impacts of climate change.

Adaptation includes ways such as planting trees to help people stay cooler, building sea walls in coastal cities to protect against floods, etc.

Carbon dioxide removal

IPCC definition: Carbon dioxide removal methods refer to processes that remove CO2 from the atmosphere by either increasing biological sinks of CO2 or using chemical processes to directly bind CO2.

In simple terms, it means, taking carbon dioxide out of the air.

Carbon dioxide removal is classified as a special type of mitigation. Planting trees and restoring grasslands can remove carbon dioxide from the air. There are also carbon dioxide removal technologies that store it underground or in concrete, but these are new and not widely used.

Read more: What is Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?
Carbon neutral

IPCC definition: Carbon neutrality is achieved when anthropogenic CO2 emissions are balanced globally by anthropogenic carbon dioxide removals over a specified period. Carbon neutrality is also referred to as net-zero carbon dioxide emission.

In simple terms, it denote not adding net carbon dioxide into the air. i.e., add carbon dioxide into the air and take out the same amount.

The IPCC warns that the world needs to be carbon neutral by 2050 to avoid a serious climate crisis. This means using both “mitigation” to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide added to the air and “carbon dioxide removal” to take carbon dioxide out of the air.

Tipping point

IPCC definition: A level of change in system properties beyond which a system reorganizes, often abruptly, and does not return to the initial state even if the drivers of the change are abated. For the climate system, it refers to a critical threshold when global or regional climate changes from one stable state to another stable state.

In simple terms, it denotes when it is too late to stop effects of climate change.

One of the most talked-about tipping points involves the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Some research suggests it may have already started happening. West Antarctica alone holds enough ice to raise sea levels worldwide by about 11 feet (3.3 meters). If all glaciers and ice caps melt, sea levels will end up rising about 230 feet (70 meters).

Sustainable development

IPCC definition: Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and balances social, economic and environmental concerns.

In simple terms, it means living in a way that is good for people alive today and for people in the future.

Abrupt change

IPCC definition: Abrupt climate change refers to a large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems.

In simple terms, it is the change in climate that happens much faster than it normally would.

Print Friendly and PDF