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Climate News - 'Climate Emergency' Declared Word of the Year

Oxford Dictionary reports 'climate emergency' reflective of year's ethos, mood and preoccupations.

Climate emergency has been declared 2019’s Oxford Word of the Year

This is a word or expression that through usage evidence reflects cultural significance of the passing year. 

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

With the climate crisis continuing to make daily headlines coupled with increased education on the implications of climate change, it’s no surprise that it dominated discussion and search histories over the year. 

The use of climate emergency represents a shift in the use of the word emergency. In 2018, emergency was mostly used in relation to health, hospital and family. These all typically represent something personal and individual. 

This year, climate emergency surpassed those types by nearly 300 per cent. It was the most written about emergency by a landslide, representing a shift away from just individual health into a more macro interpretation of emergency

Climate Emergency in Canada

In the past year, nearly 500 municipalities in Canada — including the City of Waterloo — have declared a climate emergency. Across the world, 1216 jurisdictions in 26 countries have also declared a climate emergency.

Oxford Dictionaries has found a shift in the language people are using to talk about climate change. While climate emergency led the pack of most used words, other climate-related phrases trailed shortly behind, making the Word of the Year shortlist. Some of these included climate action, climate crisis, climate denial, eco-anxiety and net-zero.

With so many jurisdictions on board with declaring or acknowledging a climate crisis, the next step is to see actual policy change come into effect.

Conversation about this is happening now until Friday at COP 25 in Madrid. There, the conference is designed to determine the next steps in the United Nations climate change process. 

ENV Media is an environmental journalism & views to empower you. For more details on climate change read our news articles on environmental issues.


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