Glossary of Terms


Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment that exploits beneficial opportunities or moderates negative effects.

Climate Change

The long-term changes in usual weather patterns of a given region, resulting in severe weather events that are more frequent, more intense, and longer in duration. These types of changes range from more frequent violent rainstorms causing flooding, to extended periods of droughts and dryness. These changes can either be “natural” or “human-induced”. Natural factors include solar variations, volcanic eruptions, and ocean currents, and have contributed to changes in our climate for millions of years. However, the rapid rate of change we have experienced over the past decades is alarming and can be attributed to human activity. Human activity has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, leading to more heat retention and an increase in surface temperatures. In the US, the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities come from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.


Shifting away from energy systems that produce and emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This shift emphasizes the need to rely on renewables and alternative low-carbon energy sources.

Environmental Justice

The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Health Disparities

Differences in health outcomes and their determinants among segments of the population as defined by social, demographic, environmental, or geographic category.

Health Equity

Striving for the highest possible standard of health for all people and giving special attention to the needs of those at greatest risk of poor health based on social conditions. Ensuring that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthy by eliminating disparities and improving the health of all groups. Health equity is necessary to ensure equitable access to care, resources, and services to those who are most in need.


A whole-of-government effort to ensure that Federal agencies work with states and local communities to make good on President Biden’s promise to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from Federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.


Processes that can reduce the amount and speed of future climate change by reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases or removing them from the atmosphere.


A capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.

Content created by Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH)
Content last reviewed