Initial reader response was positive to the Guardian’s recent changes to the way it will refer to climate. “This is an epic struggle of ideas, crucial to our future,” wrote one aye-sayer. The announcement by editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, of five changes to the style guide generated reaction in media and science. For each change (in bold below) I asked Viner for her reasons, which follow here in italics. She began by reiterating that “none of the old terms is banned. If in a particular circumstance the original term is clearly more appropriate, then it should be used. But the preference is for the new terms.”
Use climate emergency, crisis or breakdown instead of climate change
Huge-scale and immediate action is needed to slash emissions but they are still going up – that’s an emergency or crisis. Extreme weather is increasing and climate patterns established for millennia are changing – hence breakdown.
Use global heating instead of global warming
Global heating is more scientifically accurate … Greenhouse gases form an atmospheric blanket that stops the sun’s heat escaping back to space.
Use wildlife instead of biodiversity
Biodiversity is not a common or well understood term, and is a bit clinical when you are talking about all the creatures that share our planet.
Use fish populations instead of fish stocks
This change emphasises that fish do not exist solely to be harvested by humans – they play a vital role in the natural health of the oceans.
Use climate science denier or climate denier instead of climate sceptic
Very few experts are, in good faith, truly sceptical of climate science, or of the necessity for strong climate action. Those arguing against it are denying the overwhelming evidence that the climate crisis exists.