Vocabulary for IELTS Writing: Topic The Environment

It’s time to start our new topic – The environment. It’s another very popular subject in IETLS. You might need to read, write, or talk about it during your exam. The words we are going to learn should help you succeed.

Let’s talk about causes, effects, and solutions of environmental challenges using advanced IELTS vocabulary.

Let’s begin with the most talked about environmental issue today – global warming;

What is global warming? Due to human actions we observe the rise of average Earth temperatures. It may sound like a nice shift for people living in Russia and Canada, but such climate change triggers some serious negative consequences.

Example :

World leaders launch an initiative to accelerate work on global warming.

Global warming also has the potential to change rainfall and snow patterns, increase droughts and severe storms.

Let’s additionally define droughts from this sentence.

Most people think it’s a period of hot and dry weather, but that is not completely true. It is a state or condition when human demands for water exceed its natural availability.

What consequences are we talking about? It’s very likely that you have heard a lot about these issues. Melting Glaciers.

Example :

The increase in mean temperatures has led to melting of most of the world’s glaciers.

But what drives the increase in temperature? Greenhouse gases are a widely discussed source. Some greenhouse gases occur naturally, but human activity leads to release of enormous extra amounts of greenhouse gases.

Example :

Population growth, deforestation, and factor farming are creating excess greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

Deforestation. Deforestation is the clearing of trees without the intent of replanting them.

Example :

One of the consequences of deforestation is loss of biodiversity.

Another great word is biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of all living things on Earth which include plants, animals, and microorganisms.

Now we will continue with some new words associated with biodiversity.

Example :

Many species within a forest ecosystem are endemic to that habitat. When their habitat is lost, it could lead to their extinction.

Here we have 3 new words. The first one is extinction, which means that certain species no longer exist on the planet. The second word is habitat and means the natural environment of a plant, animal, or another organism. And the third word is ecosystem and means any community of living and not living things that work together.

There are some other useful words and phrases:

endangered species are those considered to be at risk of extinction.

Example :

There are over 1,300 species in the United States that are listed as threatened or endangered.

The ozone layer – a belt of naturally occurring ozone gas that sits above the earth and serves as a shield from the harmful ultraviolet radiation.


Unlike pollution, which has many types and causes, the ozone layer depletion has been pinned down to one major human activity.

In this sentence we see the very nice phrase ozone layer depletion. You will sound really smart if you use it somewhere.

Our next word combination is carbon footprint.

It is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by something during a given period of time. Let’s find an example.


A carbon footprint can be measured for an individual or an organization and is typically given in tons of CO2.

There are two gases which people often confuse – CO2 = carbon dioxide and CO = carbon monoxide. Their names are similar, and they are both dangerous in high concentration. So our best explanation is:

CO2 is produced by gasoline engines that use a catalytic converter.

CO is generated by gasoline engines that do NOT use a catalytic converter. I hope this clarifies the difference for you.

In most cases you will need to say or write something like ‘to reduce carbon dioxide emissions we have to do something…’

Our next phrase is hazardous waste.

Example :

It’s essential that hazardous waste is handled, stored, transported, and disposed of properly. No one should touch hazardous waste.

Another popular word when we talk about environment is contamination. Many people use it as a synonym of pollution, which is not completely correct.

Contamination is the presence of unwanted or foreign substances. Contamination may be natural whilst pollution is produced by the influence or activities of people.

Example :

Contamination of the fields could happen through overuse or misuse of pesticides.

Now we will define the word pesticide for you. Pesticides are chemicals that kill or manage pests. You may know those small Colorado potato beetles. Pesticides can help get rid of them.

Well, let’s move on. Landfill. Landfill is an area of land that is used to dispose of waste.

Example :

The purpose of a landfill is to bury the waste in a way that it will be isolated from groundwater, kept dry, and out of contact with air. Each country has a policy for landfills.

Now it’s time to talk about energy, the thing without which people cannot imagine living. The first phrase is renewable energy sources.

Example :

Wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy could be the fastest growing power sources over the next few decades.

The next term is tidal energy. You know what tide is, right?

Tidal energy is a power produced by the surge of ocean waters during the rise and fall of tides.

Example :

Engineers around the world are working to improve the technology of tidal energy generators to increase the amount of energy they produce and decrease their impact on the environment.

Talking about renewable energy, there are some other sources of it, such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Wind turbines are an affordable, efficient, and abundant source of electricity.

Some companies have embraced solar panels to improve their environmental profiles and to cut their operational costs.

But unfortunately fossil fuels still play a dominant role on the market. So another new word here is fossil fuels. Basically they are sources of energy in the form of remains of dead plants and animals. Sounds scary? Well, they developed over millions of years and are now available as coal, oil, and natural gas.

Example :

Some fossil fuels, such as coal, are abundant and cheap. Others, like oil, have a variable cost depending on geographic location.