#Climate

Climate Crisis: The Evolution of Climate Terminology

By Swetha Sekhar
August 2, 2021

The climate has been a major focus of environmental advocates for years. As a result, the terminology has evolved over time, with each successive term demonstrating a more complete understanding of rising global temperatures. This blog will walk through notable climate terminology over time, define each term, and examine the evolution of climate change discourse as the situation becomes more dire.  


Global Warming 

The term “global warming” was first introduced in 1975 to describe the general increase in global temperatures over the past 100-200 years caused by the Greenhouse Effect. While global temperatures do naturally fluctuate, global warming specifically refers to the speed at which the average temperature is changing, which is unusually (and dangerously) high. It is caused by an increasing amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere caused by industrial emissions, which keep more heat in the atmosphere instead of allowing it to travel back into space. The long-term effects include an increase in extreme weather (such as tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc), glacial melting (causing even less of the sun’s rays to be reflected off of the planet), and an increase in heat waves.   

Climate Change 

“Climate change” was first introduced with the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 as various governments started to realize that global warming and the greenhouse effect were major problems. It is defined as an aggregate change in climate patterns for a region over a period of time. The term encompasses global warming while also considering other concurrent changes, such as changes in rainfall, length of seasons, frequency of storms and natural disasters, and so on. Essentially, the term “climate change” includes the effects of global warming that can already be observed as a part of the problem, which is also why it is now the more popular terminology for the same phenomenon. The long-term effects are different depending on the region of focus. For example, in North America there will be less snowpack in the mountains and more rain, which will lead to more rain-fed crop yield. But Asia will experience a decrease in freshwater availability and coastal areas having an increased risk of flooding. 

Climate Crisis: The Newest Term 

The term “climate crisis” has become mainstream in 2019 (after The Guardian and The Observer changed their style guidelines to use the term, though the term was used in the 80s by VP Al Gore) as a way to demonstrate the urgency of climate change. The effects of global warming and climate change are becoming more apparent as well as destructive, showing more people that something has to be done. Researchers have concluded that Earth is likely to reach the global warming threshold (the point at which the global temperatures have risen by 1.5 degrees C, which has drastic effects) between 2027 and 2042. There isn’t much time left before it is hit, and when that occurs, the effects listed above will become more and more intense. For example, about 14% of the world will experience extreme heat waves every 5 years.  


Relationship to Business

The climate crisis cannot be ignored. Since the majority of carbon and GHG emissions tend to come from businesses, it is part of their responsibility to use sustainable practices and move away from all fossil fuels. Another part of the business responsibility on climate change is using the platform, the resources, the voice that they have to advocate for the environment and climate issues, being a leader and example for others. One of the ways in which this can be done is by treating the issue with its due seriousness, including using appropriate terminology to create the needed effect. 



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