Greenhouse gases Gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit
(GHGs) radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of infrared radiation emitted by the Earth’s
surface, the atmosphere and clouds. This property causes the greenhouse effect. Water vapor
O), carbon dioxide (CO
), nitrous oxide (N
O), methane (CH
) and ozone (O
) are the primary
greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. There are human-made greenhouse gases in the at-
mosphere, such as the halocarbons and other chlorine and bromine containing substances. Beside
O and CH
, the Kyoto Protocol deals with sulphur hexafluoride (SF
(HFCs) and per-fluorocarbons (PFCs).
Groundwater Water that flows or seeps downward and saturates soil or rock, supplying springs and wells. The
upper surface of the saturate zone is called the water table.
Habitat (1) The place or type of site where an organism or population naturally occurs.
(2) Terrestrial or aquatic areas distinguished by geographic, abiotic and biotic features, whether
entirely natural or semi-natural.
Hazard A potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human activity that may cause the loss of
life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.
Hazardous waste By-products of society that can pose a substantial or potential hazard to human health or the envi-
ronment when improperly managed. Substances classified as hazardous wastes possess at least
one of four characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity, or appear on special lists.
Heavy metals A group name for metals and semimetals (metalloids), such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cop-
per, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc, that have been associated with contamination and potential
High seas The oceans outside of national jurisdictions, lying beyond each nation’s exclusive economic zone or
other territorial waters.
Human health A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease
Human well-being The extent to which individuals have the ability to live the kinds of lives they have reason to value;
the opportunities people have to achieve their aspirations. Basic components of human well-being
include: security, material needs, health and social relations.
Institutions Regularized patterns of interaction by which society organizes itself: the rules, practices and con-
ventions that structure human interaction. The term is wide and encompassing, and could be taken
to include law, social relationships, property rights and tenurial systems, norms, beliefs, customs
and codes of conduct as much as multilateral environmental agreements, international conventions
and financing mechanisms. Institutions could be formal (explicit, written, often having the sanction
of the state) or informal (unwritten, implied, tacit, mutually agreed and accepted). Formal institutions
include law, international environmental agreements, bylaws and memoranda of understanding. In-
formal institutions include unwritten rules, codes of conduct and value systems. The term institutions
should be distinguished from organizations.
Integrated water re- A process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and
sources management related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable
(IWRM) manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.
Interlinkages The cause-effect chains that cross the boundaries of current environmental and environment-develop-
Invasive alien species An alien species whose establishment and spread modifies ecosystems, habitats or species.
Kyoto Protocol A protocol to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted at the
Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It contains
legally binding commitments, in addition to those included in the UNFCCC. Countries included in
Annex B of the protocol (most OECD countries and countries with economies in transition) agreed
to control their national anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (CO
PFCs and SF
) so that the total emissions from these countries would be at least 5 per cent below
1990 levels in the commitment period, 2008 to 2012. The protocol expires in 2012.
Land cover The physical coverage of land, usually expressed in terms of vegetation cover or lack of it. Influ-
enced by, but not synonymous with, land use.
Land degradation The loss of biological or economic productivity and complexity in croplands, pastures and wood-
lands. It is due mainly to climate variability and unsustainable human activity.