Climate Change Doesn’t Accurately Describe This Emergency


ecoRI News is no longer covering climate change. We will, however, continue to report on global warming, the climate crisis, and the ongoing climate emergency.

If we must label the threat we pose to the planet, “human hubris” would also work. But we’ll largely stick with climate crisis and climate emergency, as they both more accurately represent the problems we have caused. Climate change never did. To borrow a colleague’s observation: If you’re diagnosed with a terrible disease, it’s not a health change. It’s a crisis. An emergency. A problem.

ecoRI News isn’t the first media organization to change the language it uses to cover this problem. In May, The Guardian decided that instead of “climate change” its preferred terms would be “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown.”

“The phrase ‘climate change,’ for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity,” the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, said.

“Mind-numbing” would also work, as it’s mind-numbing that we even debate whether our actions are having a negative impact on the air, water, soil, and biodiversity that we, even more so than than the planet, need to survive.

Benign-sounding climate change gives those who believe humans have the god-given right to trample the environment, pollute at will, burn fossil fuels without concern, and consume without conscience a cause to more easily rail against.

Climate change isn’t strong enough wording to counter those who dismiss the nastiness that we spew into the atmosphere, dump into our waters, and feed to our land as the cost of doing business.

That ignorant — and self-absorbed — stance assumes humanity and the planet have no breaking point; that the resources we need to survive are limitless. It also ignores humanity’s future and that of other life on this blue sphere.

Our choices come with costs, some of them significant, and we seldom take the long view. We’re blinded by greed, numbed by narcissism, and addicted to the quick fix. If we were stranded in a desert with hundreds of miles to go and someone handed us a canteen filled with water, we would gulp it down at once.

We love kicking the can down a future generation’s throat.

We’re repeatedly swindled by the self-serving powerful — the gods who call themselves “job creators” and who sneer at those who have the gall to take the climate crisis seriously. To the anointed gods of capitalism, the environment is just another sector to rape and pillage. The public’s health isn’t their concern. We lock climate refugees in for-profit cages.

Meanwhile, the world’s human population stands at about 7.7 billion, and grows by about 80 million annually — the equivalent of adding a new Egypt every year. But we can’t fund family planning or teach sex education, because they are sins of the gods’ god.

We can’t even have reasonable conversations about the impact our growing presence on the planet is having now and will have in the future. We’re in the midst of a manmade climate crisis. The key to recovery is first admitting we have a emergency.

Frank Carini is the ecoRI News editor.


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