“Climate emergency” is Oxford Dictionaries’ 2019 Word of the Year
November 21, 2019
“Climate emergency” is the 2019 Oxford Word of the Year, Oxford Dictionaries announced Wednesday.
As defined by Oxford Dictionaries, climate emergency is “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.”
The announcement comes after a year of heightened urgency over the climate crisis, with global youth climate strikes, massive civil disobedience and report after alarming report from an international body of scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“The climate crisis is becoming increasingly urgent and the latest declaration from Oxford Dictionaries reflects this urgency, as well as a growing public consciousness over the impacts of climate change,” said Tracey Ann Ritchie, vice president of programs and partnerships at Earth Day Network.
Oxford’s data showed that the use of “climate emergency” increased 100-fold (10,796%) over the course of the year.
The data also reflects the increasing use of “climate emergency” among the scientific community. This month, more than 11,000 scientists signed an article published in the journal BioScience, declaring “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”
In October 2018, the IPCC released its special report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees Celsius, giving us just a dozen years to halve our greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of a climate crisis. The tone of that report was undeniably urgent, and many scientists, activists and politicians have reflected that urgency in own their language about climate action.
“While it is unfortunate that the term ‘climate emergency’ has been declared the word of the year based on the exponential increase in its use, it is important to note that the response has exponentially increased as well,” said Ritchie.
On September 20, 4 million people turned out worldwide for the largest climate strike in history. Language like “climate emergency,” but also Oxford’s runners-up — “climate action” and “climate crisis” — is the diction that fuels the climate change movement’s rhetoric.
On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — April 22, 2020 — Earth Day Network, the global coordinator of Earth Day, in coordination with youth climate movement, will EARTHRISE with a global call for climate action. Join the movement.