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The Guardian announces changes to use of language around climate, environmental crises

Tue 17 September 2019 | Back to news list

The Guardian newspaper has announced plans for changes to its in-house 'style guide' which mean that the language used to describe climate and environmental issues will be changing. In future, rather than 'climate change' the preferred terms will be 'climate emergency' or 'climate breakdown'. 'Global heating will be preferred over 'global warming'. 

The Guardian says that it is changing the language it uses to stay in line with terminology used by the United Nations and the UK's Met Office to describe the situation we're in.

The Guardian's Editor-in-Chief, Katharine Viner, said: “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue.

“The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

The Guardian pointed to vocabulary used by United Nations secretary general, António Guterres who talked of the 'climate crisis' in September, adding: “We face a direct existential threat.” The climate scientist Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, the EU and the Pope, also uses 'climate crisis' the Guardian said.

In December, Prof Richard Betts, who leads the Met Office’s climate research, said 'global heating' was a more accurate term than 'global warming' to describe the changes taking place to the world’s climate. 

The Guardian will also be updating other terms that describe aspects of the environmental challenges we face; for example, it will favour the use of the term 'wildlife' rather than 'biodiversity, 'fish populations' instead of 'fish stocks' and 'climate science denier' rather than 'climate sceptic'. 

The Guardian also cited Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has inspired school strikes for climate around the globe, who said: “It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?”

The Guardian has already added information on the global carbon dioxide level to its daily weather pages. 

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