Climate Change Lexicon: Apply More Heat

From Climate Scepticism


Childish attempts to raise the temperature

Just a quick one from me. This note follows Mark’s Upping the Ante from last year, in which he documented the Guardian style change that turned “climate change” into “climate crisis” or “climate emergency.”

Sometimes when looking for a particular datum you accidentally find something else interesting in its own right. The datum I was looking for will eventually contribute to a rant in these pages, so I won’t tell you what that was right now. Suffice to say that I came across a link to “climate crisis” in Wikipedia, and clicked on it. Why? Well, just to confirm that it would redirect me to “climate change”. It didn’t. There really is such a page on Wiki, where – rather than describing the collapse of the sky – the term’s history and usage is discussed.

My position on the ludicrous term “climate crisis” has been a simple one for quite a while now. It’s this: If you use the term “climate crisis” in a non-ironic way, I will not take anything else you say seriously.

Of course, users of this term do not care what I think of them. They don’t know who I am, and if they did, they would probably see my haughty judgement as a badge of honour. But what did I find when I clicked on “climate crisis”?

Well, the first thing was this:

[I didn’t follow the link to “climate apocalypse”, nor to the link lower down to “climate endgame.”]

Wiki describes what is meant by the term “climate crisis”, its “scientific basis” and its history. Then it goes on at length about the effectiveness of the term’s use, including psychological and neuroscience studies, and there is even criticism of it. Then we reach the section “Related Terminology.” Here we find the lexicon of doom itself. Below is Wiki’s list, together with coiners or notable users:

Climate catastrophe (NYT, ABC Australia, Guardian) (2019)

Threats that impact the earth (WWF) (2012-)

Climate breakdown (Peter Kalmus) (2018)

Climate chaos (NYT, US Democratic candidates, Ad Age marketers) (2019)

Climate ruin (US Democratic candidates) (2019)

Global heating (Richard Betts) (2018)

Climate emergency (The infamous “letter” in BioScience, Guardian) (2019)

Ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency (Greta) (2019)

Global meltdown, scorched Earth, the great collapse, Earthshattering [sic] (Ad Age marketers) (2019)

Climate disaster (Guardian) (2019)

Climate calamity (LAT) (2022)

Climate havoc (NYT) (2022)

Climate pollution, carbon pollution (Grist) (2022)


I have also caught Wikipedia using the term “climate crisis” not just in the page trying hard to discuss the term neutrally, but also, unironically, in another article. How do you think I fell through this particular trapdoor? Yes. A lazy Wiki editor linked to the “climate crisis” page, thinking that it would tell me all about just what a “crisis” we are in – rather than fairly dispassionately discuss the term itself.

Wiki is very good on some things. If you want to know what banners rode out at the battle of Grunwald 600 years ago, you’ll get a reliable answer there. And although you can’t trust it on climate change, I must thank it for providing me with the above list of juvenile attempts at raising the rhetorical temperature, together with a partial list of outlets and people that I no longer need to take seriously.

One day, when I have run out of paint to watch dry on the wall, I will begin to compile a list of my own: the list of shame of all those who have spoken about the “climate crisis” as if it is a real phenomenon. In so doing they wantonly disseminate disinformation, a sin they simultaneously and casually accuse their opponents of.