Sticklers will note that it’s actually two words, but “climate emergency” has been chosen the “word of the year” by Oxford Dictionaries, which cited a hundred-fold increase in the term’s usage.
“Analysis of language data collected in the Oxford Corpus shows the rapid rise of climate emergency from relative obscurity to becoming one of the most prominent – and prominently debated – terms of 2019,” said the dictionary-maker, part of Oxford University Press, in a statement.
The definition of “climate emergency,” a phrase embraced this year by environmental groups and media outlets, is “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.”
Oxford Dictionaries found that the use of the phrase “increased steeply over the course of 2019, and by September it was more than 100 times as common as it had been the previous year,” soaring by 10,796% from 2018.
“This data is significant because it indicates a growing shift in people’s language choice in 2019, a conscious intensification that challenges accepted language use to reframe discussion of ‘the defining issue of our time’ with a new gravity and greater immediacy,” said the OD statement.
One reason cited for this year’s prominence of “climate emergency” is the [U.K.] Guardian’s decision in May to update its stylebook preference from “climate change” to “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” to describe “the broader impact of climate change.”
“The move prompted other media outlets to review and update their own policies and approaches to reporting on the climate,” said Oxford Dictionaries.
That decision by the left-of-center newspaper was cheered by activists but decried by skeptics, who accused the publication of seeking to hype the climate-catastrophe narrative with a loaded term.
“The term ‘climate emergency’ is beyond parody,” said Climate Depot’s Marc Morano. “It is simply a lobbying campaign by the media, academia and activist scientists who are trying to instill even more fear about alleged global warming. I think the phrase will ultimately hurt climate activists because it is so over the top that people know instinctively they’re being lobbied.”
He noted that the phrase dates as far back as 2005, when Barbra Streisand used it in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
The use of the phrase can only backfire for media outlets. It will only serve to expose the media as having no objectivity on this issue,” Mr. Morano said. “When media outlets use the phrase, their audience will recognize that the outlet is shilling for climate alarm and so-called solutions.”
Others applauded the selection. Ken Pedotto, CEO of Solar Simplified, said that the choice “further proves that climate change is something we cannot change lightly.”
“If people across the globe do not begin taking steps to address the ‘climate emergency’ by making changes in their everyday lives, including utilizing renewable energy sources like solar, there is no telling where we will be in 20 years,” said Mr. Pedotto.
Oxford’s shortlist for “word of the year” included a plethora of climate-related word such as “climate action,” “climate crisis,” “climate denial,” “eco-anxiety,” “ecocide,” “extinction” and “flight shame.”
Recent “word of the year” winners include “toxic” (2018), “youthquake” (2017), “post-truth” (2016), and “selfie” (2013).