Is climate change actually a ‘climate crisis’? Some think so

Since the UN Report on Climate Change said we have 12 years to keep carbon emissions at 1.5 degrees C above pre industrial levels, the fact that mainstream media is finally catching up on the discussion (long overdue) of this existential emergency is a good sign, especially if journalists start to critically analyze and expose fossil fuel industry misinformation.

British newspaper takes lead in reframing climate change discussion

Scientists say that wildfires, such as this one near Sioux Lookout, Ont., are exacerbated by climate change. (Bernie Hawryluk)

What’s in a word? Or a phrase? A lot. Take a quick scan of your social media or news feed and it’s clear that words matter. They can affect our actions and how we feel.

The debate over the environment and climate change can be especially heated.

The British newspaper the Guardian triggered a discussion recently after it announced changes to the way it describes climate change in its reporting. The nearly 200-year-old publication updated its style guide, and now refers to what’s happening to our planet as a “crisis.”

“‘Climate change’ is no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the situation; use climate emergency, crisis or breakdown instead,” reads the updated guide.

The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, explained that it was also time to do away with such niceties as “global warming,” which is being replaced, in most instances, with “global heating.”

“We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change,’ for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

It’s something Sean Holman, a Calgary journalism professor, has been thinking about for a while. He wrote an open letter to editors and journalism associations chiding reporters for failing to properly report on the “crisis” shortly after the Guardian made the change.

“This letter is aimed at basically us, you and me, journalists across the country whose job it is to provide the public with the truth more than anything else,” said Holman. “We know that climate change, the climate crisis, is causing a lot of what we are seeing now and we need to be clearer with our audiences about that, because, really, no one else will.” MORE

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