IELTS Environment Vocabulary

You may be asked questions about the environment or environmental problems in your country. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: Are there any environmental problems in your country?
Kelly: Yes … we have a serious issue with pollution levels in some of our big cities …  exhaust fumes from cars and lorries are definitely one reason for the problem but we also have a lot of heavy industry in some areas and this also results in poor air quality  …

Examiner: Do you take an interest in nature?
Jenny: Well … I’m a city person through and through and don’t get back to nature very often I’m afraid … but like everyone else I’m fascinated by the natural world and I like watching documentaries showing wild animals in their natural habitat …

Examiner: Do you or your family take steps to help the environment?
Mira: My parents have always tried to make us aware of our impact on the environment…  they’re really into energy conservation … and always try to buy environmentally friendly products if they have the chance …

Part 2-style task

Describe an environmental problem that has been in the news.  You should say

  • when this was
  • where the event happened
  • what actually took place

and say how you felt about this problem.

Martin:  Well … this is an interesting question … there are so many issues I could think of … natural disasters like earthquakes and floods seem to be in the news almost every year … but there was one story recently about some animals that were under threat … it wasn’t focused on one place in particular … it was looking at various animals that could actually become extinct in different African countries … if we don’t take steps to protect them … these were really iconic animals like gorillas … leopards … rhinos … and apparently they’re now listed as endangered species …  what made it really depressing was they were in danger thanks to us … in some cases it was due to a loss of habitat either because people need more agricultural production … or even worse I think … because of hunting and poaching … I hate to think of future generations being robbed of the chance to see creatures like these in their natural environment … it’s lucky we have lots of organisations that focus on wildlife conservation … hopefully with their help we can put pressure on those in power to do something to stop creatures like these dying out …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner:  What do you think is the main danger the world faces in terms of the environment?
Spencer: Well … climate change is a real issue … in my country we have flash floods and heatwaves on a yearly basis … so yes … I think global warming is the biggest issue.

Examiner: What examples are there of how we damage the natural world?
Stella: There are so many examples … there are factories that empty toxic waste into rivers and oceans … oil spills that damage the coastline …  the way we destroy vast areas of land and rain forests in search of fossil fuels or to increase agricultural production …

Examiner: In which ways do we respond well to environmental problems?
Mathius: Well … on the one hand there are various worldwide agencies that are always the first on the scene with humanitarian aid  after  natural  and man-made disasters … and on the other hand we have environmental pressure groups that are constantly raising awareness of issues and trying to stop disasters happening …


  • air quality: the cleanliness of the air we breathe
  • to become extinct: to no longer exist
  • to be under threat: to be in danger of becoming extinct
  • climate change: the change in worldwide weather patterns
  • to die out: see ‘to become extinct’
  • endangered species: categories of animals or plants that are in danger of becoming extinct
  • energy conservation: the careful management of energy resources to ensure they last as long as possible
  • environmentally friendly: behaviour and products that do not harm the environment
  • exhaust fumes: the toxic gases given off by vehicles powered by petrol
  • flash floods: floods that happen quickly
  • fossil fuels: energy resources like gas and oil that are produced deep below the ground over millions of years
  • future generations: the people who live after us
  • to get back to nature: to live a life that is closer to nature
  • global warming: the increasing temperature of the world brought about by gases such as carbon dioxide
  • heavy industry: the manufacture of heavy articles and materials in large numbers
  • humanitarian aid: the act of showing support to people struggling to survive
  • impact on: the effect on
  • loss of habitat: the decline in areas of land where animals and plants would normally exist
  • man-made disaster: widespread damage or loss of life brought about by the action of humans
  • natural disaster: an event such as an earthquake,  flood or hurricane which causes widespread damage or loss of life
  • natural environment: the place where animals and plants would normally be found in nature
  • the natural world: the world of nature
  • oil spillwaste usually deposited in the seas and oceans after an accident at sea
  • poaching: to hunt and kill wild animals illegally
  • pollution levels: the amount of toxic waste
  • pressure group: a group of people who try to raise awareness of issues and try to affect the views and actions of people and organisations
  • toxic waste: poisonous, unwanted rubbish often produced by industrial processes
  • wildlife conservation: to protect animals and plants and their habitats