When does climate change become climate crisis?

British newspaper The Guardian made waves earlier this year when it announced it would replace the term "climate change" with "climate crisis" or "climate emergency" — saying those terms more accurately describe the environmental planetary changes.

"The phrase 'climate change' sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity," editor-in-chief Katharine Viner wrote, explaining the stylebook shift.

The language shift quickly attracted praise from environmentalists and accusations of scaremongering from others. It also kickstarted vibrant discussions in other newsrooms about the best use of terms.

How should the media talk about the changing climate? Is the phrase "climate crisis" justified? Paul Huttner, MPR's chief meteorologist, spoke with two national climate experts about whether the change in language is helpful — or harmful.


Genevieve Guenther, founder and director of EndClimateSilence.org

Bobby Magill, president of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the energy and public lands reporter for Bloomberg Environment

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

Correction (July 16, 2019): An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the name of Genevieve Guenther’s foundation. It has been corrected.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.