The climate crisis is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced. Still, politicians around the world fail to take necessary action in an adequate time frame. On the other hand, millions of people around the world are demanding action. How is this dicrepancy possible?
Scientists are daily delivering new scientific proof how devastating the climate crisis will be, if we do not take action in time. At the same time, NGOs and movements worldwide are doing their best to educate the public about the seriousness of the climate crisis. Which role has language to turn this into universal efforts?
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It’s a crisis, not a change
The bridge between scientific results and real-life action is communication. Even though the devastating effect of the human-made greenhouse effect is scientifically proven for decades, not enough is done to stop it. To turn this around, effective communication by scienfitic institutions, NGOs and journalists is crucial. And part of effective communication is calling things by their name.
Climate change is normal and has always happened throughout the history of earth. What we witness right now, is not natural climate change though. The rapid change of climate worldwide, caused by human activity, is the biggest crisis we have ever faced. One million species are threatened, many of them by the climate crisis. Desertification, droughts, fires, floods, storms and water scarcity could cause hundreds of millions people to flee their home. These people have to find refuge somewhere else.
Communicating the crisis
So we can’t simply talk about a change in climate. There are many terms we can use: climate emergency, global overheating, ecological breakdown, climate chaos. They all illustrate the current and future impacts of people’s life, often the poorest and most defenseless people. The British newspaper Guardian recently changed its style guide to convey this and many outlets are following. Similar to journalists, NGOs have the responsibility to turn scientific results into calls for action for the public. And appropiate language is a key factor for that.
People need reminding that the climate crisis is no longer a future problem – we need to tackle it now, and every day matters.
Facts are not enough
Climate science deniers have worked with fake news, paid “experts” and faked studies for decades. On the other side, many climate advocates believed that objective and scientific language will eventually convince people. But time is running out. We can’t just hope that people will listen to scientific results. If we want to stop or even minimize the climate crisis, we have to convince more people that fast action is the only solution.
We see stronger impacts of the climate crisis now than ever before, so the language about it also has to become stronger. Drastic events require drastic language and climate records prove that we are at a breaking point. If we cannot reduce our greenhouse gas emission drastically within the next years, changes will be irreversible.