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‘Climate Emergency’ Is Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year for 2019

Data released by Oxford has shown that the use of the word ‘climate emergency’ has increased by more than 10,000% in the last year.

New Delhi: From an all-environmental shortlist, Oxford dictionaries has chosen ‘climate emergency’ as its word for the year. It was chosen from a list comprising exclusively of words related to the environment and it included ‘climate action’, ‘climate denial’, ‘eco-anxiety’, ‘extinction’ and ‘flight shame’.

The Oxford dictionary defines climate emergency as

“a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it”.

The objective of choosing a word of the year is to bring to the fore a “word or expression shown through usage evidence to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have a lasting potential as a term of cultural significance”. Previously ‘toxic’, ‘youthquake’, ‘post-truth’ and ‘vape’ have been chosen as the words of the year.

Also read: Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year is a Befitting Tribute to 2018

Data released by Oxford has shown that the use of the word ‘climate emergency’ has increased by more than 10,000% in the last year.

“In 2018, climate did not feature in the top words typically used to modify emergency, instead the top types of emergencies people wrote about were health, hospital, and family emergencies. But with climate emergency, we see something new, an extension of emergency to the global level,” the selection panel said.

It also said that in the year 2018, climate emergency became the most written about emergency across the world.

In the last two years, there has been increased focus all over the world on the climate emergency that parts of the world are heading towards, while some parts are already encountering.

In August last year, teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg began a strike by herself outside the Swedish parliament demanding that representatives act swiftly to reduce emission in order to keep climate change in check.

Subsequently, a global strike called ‘Fridays for future’ took shape in which school students skipped school to protest against the inaction of governments. The movement spread quickly far and wide and reached a peak in September this year when an estimated 7.6 million participated in the strike.

The global media has also responded to the changing climate and the changing awareness of it by ramping up its coverage of it.

Also read: The English Way with Words

In May this year, the Guardian announced that it would be tweaking the language it uses to refer to the problem. Instead of “climate change”, it now uses “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” instead of “global warming”.

In September this year, a global collaboration of more than 300 news outlets, newspapers, magazines, podcast platforms, and television channels from 47 countries joined the global collaboration “covering climate now” to provide impetus to climate change reportage. The Wire was one of the partners.

This all comes at a time when the science about climate change is more clear and more alarming than ever before. The intergovernmental panel on climate change, which collates research by scientists across the world, released the SR 15 report last year in October.

It has also been referred to by some as the ‘doomsday report’ because it says that the world has already warmed by about 1 degree celsius compared to the pre industrialisation world. The report also highlighted that the target of keeping global warming to below 2 degree celsius set under the 2015 Paris agreement is not nearly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.