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Monday, 30th May 2011

Climate Change: Key Terms in 23 languages

Source: European Council

From the Introduction:

The European Union has been a frontrunner and a driving force of climate action since the 1990s, both in terms of international positions and EU legislation. The Lisbon Treaty mentions the fight against climate change explicitly.Consequently, climate-related action features in EU political and regulatory texts. These texts contain concepts and notions which had not previously been used in official EU language. Very often, these concepts and notions have a relatively recent scientific background and exist primarily in English. But their meaning is not always reflected adequately in general English dictionaries. They have appeared in the context of the UN and other international fora and have “slipped” into the EU’s vocabulary.

For example, the notion of “mitigation” – crucial in international climatenegotiations – puzzles many readers trying to familiarise themselves with this area. Mitigation is presented as a concept which is different from that of “adaptation” to climate change, though both are considered to be complementary to each other. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “to mitigate” as “to make less severe, violent or painful”. But this does not really help. Only a slightly more advanced reader of climate texts would grasp that “mitigation” means bringing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions down, and not just softening the impact of climate change (which would be “adaptation”).

Finally, the policy challenge of climate change is also a significant challenge for those who have to translate the underlying concepts and notions into all official languages in the Union. This glossary is not only a very good illustration of the degree of effort invested: it will also provide useful guidance for citizens who simply want to have a better understanding of what they hear and read in a language which is not their mother tongue.

+ Direct link to document (PDF; 1.1 MB)


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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »



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