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The Guardian changes its terminology to reflect urgency of climate crisis

Signal of change / The Guardian changes its terminology to reflect urgency of climate crisis

By Carolina Altenburger / 17 May 2019

The British daily newspaper The Guardian released an updated style guide on writing, editing and language usage for topics in relation to environmental issues.

From now on, instead of 'climate change', terms such as 'climate emergency', 'climate crisis' or 'climate breakdown' should be used in the media's publications. 'Global warming' will also be substituted by 'Global heating'. 

Although the common terms are not banned, the editor-in-chief Katherine Viner explains, that “we want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue." 

The style guide is valid for all the printed as well as the online newspaper and the Observer. 

So what?

The Guardian's update of the style guide is part of a current trend in the public perception of our climate's outlook. Politicians, public offices and persona, such as the United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres, are changing their terminology towards stronger language to describe the current climate situation. 

It is not only about being precise with the readers but also how the public opinion is shaped by the terminology. Linguists understand language as a tool to shape culture and create a social opinion.

Could changing the language used to talk about the environment increase awareness of its urgency? Will shifts in language also have an influence on behaviour?


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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