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May 17, 2019, 10:42 a.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: www.theguardian.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   May 17, 2019

Human-caused climate change is arguably the largest crisis facing the world’s population of more than 7 billion, but news organizations have struggled to cover it adequately. “Newsroom managers have failed to see the climate crisis as fundamental, all-encompassing, and worthy of attention from every journalist on their payrolls,” Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope wrote in an article, “The media are complacent while the world burns,”. That was co-published last month in The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review ahead of a conference on how news organizations can reframe their climate change coverage. Mainstream U.S. publications, in particular, have often failed to highlight the issue.

The Guardian has been ahead of other outlets in the attention it pays to climate change, especially in its daily reporting — it includes CO2 levels in its weather reports, for instance, and it partnered with The Nation and CJR on that conference. On Friday, The Guardian announced that it’s also changing the language it uses to describe what is happening to the environment:

Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favored over “global warming,” although the original terms are not banned…

“We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change,’ for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity”…

Other terms that have been updated, including the use of “wildlife” rather than “biodiversity,” “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks” and “climate science denier” rather than “climate skeptic.” In September, the BBC accepted it gets coverage of climate change “wrong too often” and told staff: “You do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate.”

Wording around climate really does matter, and though The Guardian’s changes are technically small, they may help reinforce the importance of climate reporting in the minds of both readers and newsroom staff.

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