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."
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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