Guardian Drops Neutrality in Climate Crisis Reporting
Gone are 'climate change' and 'skeptic.' In are 'global heating' and 'denier.'
The Guardian has issued major changes to its style guide in regards to reporting on global warming:
The Guardian has updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world.
Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured 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.”
“Increasingly, climate scientists and organisations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology, and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in,” she said.
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, talked of the “climate crisis” in September, adding: “We face a direct existential threat.” The climate scientist Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, the EU and the pope, also uses “climate crisis”.
In December, Prof Richard Betts, who leads the Met Office’s climate research, said “global heating” was a more accurate term than “global warming” to describe the changes taking place to the world’s climate. In the political world, UK MPs recently endorsed the Labour party’s declaration of a “climate emergency”.
The scale of the climate and wildlife crises has been laid bare by two landmark reports from the world’s scientists. In October, they said carbon emissions must halve by 2030 to avoid even greater risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. In May, global scientists said human society was in jeopardy from the accelerating annihilation of wildlife and destruction of the ecosystems that support all life on Earth.
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 sceptic”. 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.”—-The Guardian, “Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment“
My initial instinct here is that the Guardian is abandoning journalistic objectivity, using the most extreme language suggested—in some cases, quite recently—by propagandists on the one side of the debate and thus putting its thumb on the scales. Indeed, it’s engaging in activism rather than reporting.
But, in reality, what the editors are doing is acknowledging that there is no debate.
There are simply no credible scientists who believe that average temperatures aren’t rising, that humans aren’t a major contributing factor, or that the impact on human life of continuing down the current course aren’t severe if not catastrophic. Treating people who disagree with the overwhelming consensus as equals in a debate is a disservice to readers whose duty it’s theirs to inform.
There’s still a debate about what to do about the problem. Reasonable people can differ as to whether global treaties that treat the United States and the European Union differently than China are good policy. Ditto whether any particular regulation designed to lower emissions produces enough benefit to justify the costs. But it’s long past time to pretend that there is no problem.