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By Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner

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CARBON TRADING: Buying and selling of carbon credits, abstract instruments (like money) that each represent the right to emit 1 ton of carbon dioxide or an equivalent amount of other greenhouse gases. Carbon trading presently takes place under the European Union Emission Trading Scheme and the Chicago Climate Exchange. CARBON-BASED FUEL: Any substance composed mostly of carbon that is burned or otherwise chemically reacted to release energy. Most biofuels and all fossil fuels are carbon-based, although natural gas also contains a significant fraction of its energy in the form of hydrogen.

Radiation), and material flows such as currents and winds. Does not study biological phenomenon as such, but only their effects on the large-scale physical properties of Earth and its climate and other systems. GEOTHERMAL ENERGY: Energy obtained from Earth’s internal heat, which is maintained by the breakdown of radioactive elements. Geothermal means, literally, Earth-heat. , to heat buildings or industrial processes) or to generate electricity. GEYSER: Hot spring that periodically sprays steam and hot water into the air.

CONTINENTAL DRIFT: A theory that explains the relative positions and shapes of the continents, and other geologic phenomena, by lateral movement of the continents. This was the precursor to plate tectonic theory. CONTINENTAL PLATE: Solid segment of Earth’s rocky crust that moves about independently. The motion of plates is one of the basic geological processes shaping Earth’s surface and is the cause of continental drift, which over millions of years can radically reshape regional and global climate.

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