Climate change or climate crisis? To really engage people, the media should talk about solutions

Read the full story at The Conversation.

Days after the British parliament declared a “climate emergency”, The Guardian announcedthat it would start using “stronger” language to discuss the environment. Its updated style guide states that “climate change” no longer accurately reflects the seriousness of the situation and journalists are advised to use “climate emergency”, “climate crisis” or “climate breakdown” instead.

Though it may seem inconsequential, language choices really do matter. How we label an issue determines how we frame it. Back in 2003, Frank Luntz told the US Bush administration that it’s time to start talking about “climate change” instead of “global warming”, because the former sounds less frightening. Explaining The Guardian’s decision, editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said that “climate change” sounds “gentle” when in fact scientists are describing “a catastrophe”.

While scientists’ responses to this move have been mixed, The Guardian’s changing language is prompting reviews in newsrooms around the world. In Norway, the Morgenbladet recently announced that it will follow The Guardian’s example.

But how novel is The Guardian’s use of “strong” language and what could be its impact?

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