Climate crisis is a term that frames climate change within the proper coordinates of magnitude, urgency and liability. It describes the traumatic disruption of all components of the climate system caused by human activities.
The notion of climate crisis
- From the Latin word crisis, ‘choice, decision, decisive phase of an illness’. In medical jargon, a crisis is a rapid and sudden change in morbid states, such as those characterising acute febrile illnesses;
- In the social, economic and political spheres, a crisis is commonly defined as a situation of malaise denoting deep structural imbalances;
- In classical economics, a crisis is the phase in the business cycle that occurs as a result of and due to a situation of generalised overproduction.
Taking a stance on an issue, especially a divisive one, means first and foremost choosing the words we use to talk about it. To speak of ‘climate change’ is to speak of the imbalances caused by the overlapping of anthropogenic activities and natural variability in the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere. To speak of a ‘climate crisis’ is to point out the causes and consequences of these imbalances and to ring an alarm.
The word crisis recalls a semantics of urgency, not aimed at paralysising, but rather at fostering immediate action. When young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, pioneer of the global movement Fridays For Future (FFF), called on MEPs to ‘panic’ in April 2019 what she demanded was for the situation to finally be recognised as a crisis. When we become aware that we are in a crisis, our reaction should be proportionate, coordinated and immediate.
Language is not only a descriptive tool, but also a performative one. That is why activists, scientists, civil society associations, politicians and business leaders all over the world are demanding for the proper words to be used. The British newspaper The Guardian led the way in the media when it announced its new rules of style regarding environmental issues in 2019. Goodbye ‘change’, except for strictly scientific and geophysical descriptions. Welcome ‘crisis’ and ’emergency’.
zeroCO2 and the climate crisis
zeroCO2 uses this terminology to highlight the seriousness of the state of the climate and the need to take immediate, ambitious mitigation measures to avert catastrophic and irreversible disruptions.