The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Is It ‘Climate Crisis’ or ‘Climate Change'? The Guardian Updates Its Style Guide
The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.
In an update to its house style guide reported Friday, the paper now recommends writers use "climate emergency, crisis or breakdown" instead of "climate change" and "global heating" instead of "global warming."
"We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue," Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner explained. "The phrase 'climate change,' for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity."
The changes were also emailed to staff and added to the online style guide the same day, Carbon Brief Director and Editor Leo Hickman reported on Twitter. Other changes include replacing "biodiversity" with "wildlife," "fish stocks" with "fish populations" and "climate sceptic" with "climate science denier."
"The OED defines a sceptic as 'a seeker of the truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions,'" the new style guide reads. "Most 'climate sceptics,' in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, deny climate change is happening, or is caused by human activity, so denier is more accurate."
Writing for journalism think tank the Nieman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen noted that The Guardian was ahead of the curve in paying attention to climate change, pointing to its decision to include carbon dioxide concentrations in its weather reports.
"Wording around climate really does matter, and though The Guardian's changes are technically small, they may help reinforce the importance of climate reporting in the minds of both readers and newsroom staff," she wrote.
The Guardian said the changes were in response to a number of political and scientific developments, among them
1. The October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that found that carbon dioxide levels needed to fall by nearly half by 2030 in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and avoid catastrophic impacts.
2. A May UN report warning that biodiversity and natural systems were declining across the globe, putting the human societies that rely on them at risk.
3. The use of the term "climate crisis" by United Nations Sec. General António Guterres and climate scientist Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who has advised Angela Merkel, the EU and the pope.
4. The UK Parliament's declaration of a climate emergency this month.
The Guardian also referenced the words of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, whose school strike for climate action inspired a youth movement.
"It's 2019. Can we all now please stop saying "climate change" and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she asked on Twitter this month.
Scientists had mixed responses to the changes, according to quotes assembled by the Science Media Centre.
"We have a decade to change how humanity abuses the Planet. The climate and environmental emergency declared by the UK Parliament is real. The language we use to discuss the greatest challenge facing humanity must reflect the urgency and the importance," University College London Climatology Prof. Mark Maslin said. "The Guardian new editorial guidelines show a clear understanding the world has changed and the zeitgeist generated by Extinction Rebellion, and the climate school strikes."
However, others said the new terms were too value-laden to be truly scientific.
"In my view, 'Climate emergency' and 'climate crisis' are a matter of opinion, not science. They are to do with how people & society view climate change and whether / how to respond. individuals will have personal views on these but they are not scientific terms," Met Office Fellow Prof. Richard Betts said. "'Climate breakdown' seems more like an attempt at a scientific term, but it implies a judgement on what an 'unbroken' climate is. Scientifically I don't think there such a thing though. There are ranges of climate conditions to which humans are adapted, and we will obviously be in big trouble if the climate moves out of those ranges, but that's still not really the same as the climate 'breaking down.'"
It was Betts who inspired The Guardian to replace "global warming" with "global heating."
"Global heating is technically more correct because we are talking about changes in the energy balance of the planet," he said at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland last December, as The Guardian reported.
Betts clarified the difference between the terms for the Science Media Centre.
"I think Global Heating describes the process — changing the Earth's energy balance. It implies attribution," he said. "Global warming (the rise in temperature) is the consequence of global heating. So, both are OK, it depends exactly what you mean."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.
gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images
Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.
The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
'We Should Be Retreating Already From the Coastline,' Scientist Suggests After Finding Warm Waters Below Greenland
By Johnny Wood
The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.
The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.
Here are some of the challenges the river faces.
By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.