'It's a crisis, not a change': the six Guardian language changes on climate matters

(The Guardian, 16 Oct 2019) A short glossary of the changes we’ve made to the Guardian’s style guide, for use by our journalists and editors when writing about the environment.

In addition to providing updated guidelines on which images our editors should use to illustrate the climate emergency, we have updated our style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world. Our 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”. These are the guidelines provided to our journalists and editors to be used in the production of all environment coverage across the Guardian’s website and paper:

1.) “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” to be used instead of “climate change”

Climate change is no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the overall situation; use climate emergency or climate crisis instead to describe the broader impact of climate change. However, use climate breakdown or climate change or global heating when describing it specifically in a scientific or geophysical sense eg “Scientists say climate breakdown has led to an increase in the intensity of hurricanes”.

2.) “climate science denier” or “climate denier” to be used instead of “climate sceptic”

The OED defines a sceptic as “a seeker of the truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions”. 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.

3.) Use “global heating” not “global warming”
‘Global heating’ is more scientifically accurate. Greenhouse gases form an atmospheric blanket that stops the sun’s heat escaping back to space.

4.) “greenhouse gas emissions” is preferred to “carbon emissions” or “carbon dioxide emissions”.
Although carbon emissions is not inaccurate, if we’re talking about all gases that warm the atmosphere, this term recognises all of the climate-damaging gases, including methane, nitrogen oxides, CFCs etc.

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The Guardian, 16 Oct 2019: 'It's a crisis, not a change': the six Guardian language changes on climate matters