It seems that the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment. It’s updated it’s preferred terms to include climate emergency, crisis or breakdown, instead of climate change and global heating, instead of global warming. Maybe most controversially, it is suggesting using climate science denier instead of climate sceptic.
One of my most read posts is a guest post by Richard Betts arguing that we should label the behaviour, not the person. Although I haven’t always succeeded, I have tried to follow this basic suggestion; I try to avoid labelling an individual, even if I do sometimes discuss the existence of people who deny climate science. I think this has helped to avoid some discussions degenerating.
However, even though these discussions don’t degenerate, this doesn’t make them particularly worthwhile; they’re pleasant, but mostly pointless. It also hasn’t avoided people accussing me of engaging in name-calling. It seems that this is just a convenient excuse that some use to justify why they can’t engage in meaningful discussions with those they regard as alarmists.
So, I’m in two minds about the Guardian’s new style guide. I think avoiding using terms like climate science denier can help a little to improve the overall tone of the dialogue. However, it doesn’t really seem to encourage any kind of meaningful discussion and avoiding it doesn’t seem to really change that some will still throw around accusations of name calling.
My guess is that it will make little difference. Those writing for the Guardian are almost certainly not trying to reach those dismissive of the risks associated with climate change; this probably isn’t actually possible. It may even seem appealing to their regulars. It could, potentially, put off some of those who are undecided, but I don’t think anyone knows what really works, so it may be worth a shot.
The style guide at the end of the world, by Joe Smith.