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From unnatural disasters to climate shadow: How will we talk about climate change in 2023?

origin 1A climate linguistics specialist has predicted which words about climate change we will use in 2023. ©canva

How will we talk about the climate crisis in 2023?

The news is filled with the jargon of environmentalism: from net zero to biodiversity. As global warming intensifies, this shared vocabulary is growing. In fact, in 2019, the Oxford dictionary word, or more accurately phrase, of the year was “climate emergency.”

The way we talk about climate issues, explains expert Susan Joy Hassol, director of the non-profit organization Climate Communication.

“Words matter because they can shape our perceptions, beliefs and behaviors. In the realm of politics, they lead decisions and actions.” he told the language learning platform Chat.

“In an effort to cope climate changeIt is important to use language as effectively as possible to engage the public and rapidly promote policies at all levels because failure is not an option.”

So what will we talk about in 2023?

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Hassol highlighted three terms he hopes will be commonly used over the next year.

3. NOT natural disasters

‘Natural’ disasters such as Hurricanestsunami, severe storms and avalanches they seem beyond human control.

But in the 21st century, these extreme events are by no means “natural,” but instead are accelerated (or even directly caused) by human alteration of climate.

The devastating Floods in Pakistan \ – which have killed more than 1,700 people and displaced 7.9 million – since the beginning of this year are one example.

origin 1Climate change makes seemingly “natural” disasters like floods and fires much more likely.Canva

Global warming means more moisture in the atmosphere, which means more rainfall. In turn, this falls as rain on land roasted by extreme heat, which means it does not absorb. The Monsoon rains of 2022 in Pakistan it was almost 190% higher than the 30-year average.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, made this connection very clearly.

“I gasp when I hear people say it’s natural disasters. This is precisely the age of the Anthropocene: these are man-made disasters,” she said.

2. Carbon shadow

The term ecological footprint \- the total emissions for which an individual is responsible – is known.

But it was initially popularized by oil companies like BP as a way to shift the burden of fighting emissions onto the individual and depoliticise the fight to stem global warming. BP – one of the world’s biggest polluters – first introduced a “carbon footprint calculator” way back in 2004.

Individuals contribute to climate change, but emissions aren’t the only way they do it. Other variables include how they votewhether they participate or not climate activism and where do they spend and invest your own money.

“Shadow carbon” is a broader term that encompasses factors beyond personal consumption. In this way, it is more systemic than the carbon footprint.

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1 . Heat trapping pollution

Hassol hopes that “carbon emissions” will be replaced by the term “heat trapping”. pollution.’

origin 1Some activists are hoping the term emissions will be replaced with the more visceral phrase “heat-trapping pollution.”Canva

By linking climate change to something visceral and dangerous, the new term brings more immediacy to an issue that is often seen as occurring far away or in the future, even if it is causing suffering now.

Babbel linguistic expert Todd Ehresmann echoes this call for urgency and simplicity.

“Because conversations about the climate crisis are so closely tied to scientific research, discussions on the topic may use complex terminology that may be less accessible to the general public,” he said.

“Communicating the crisis in a digestible way, for example by using metaphors to directly paint a visual picture of the scientific phenomenon to be highlighted, is a useful tool to ensure that the message is clear to all”.

The same linguistic shift drove the transition from “climate change” to ‘climate crisis,‘ He added.

“Updating the language to align with the evolving urgency of the situation is imperative,” he said.