‘Climate emergency’ Oxford word of year

According to Oxford, there was a rapid rise of ‘climate emergency’ from “relative obscurity” to becoming one of the most prominently debated terms of 2019, increasing its usage by 100 times in a year.
Oxford dictionary pointed out that ‘climate emergency’ had “surpassed” in usage all other types of emergencies by a huge margin.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Oxford dictionary pointed out that ‘climate emergency’ had “surpassed” in usage all other types of emergencies by a huge margin.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Updated on Nov 22, 2019 05:22 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

Oxford Dictionaries on Wednesday said it has chosen ‘climate emergency’ as its word of the year as it reflected “heightened public awareness” of one of the most pressing global issues of this century.

According to Oxford, there was a rapid rise of ‘climate emergency’ from “relative obscurity” to becoming one of the most prominently debated terms of 2019, increasing its usage by 100 times in a year.

“Usage of the phrase climate emergency 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,” it said.

The dictionary also pointed out that ‘climate emergency’ had “surpassed” in usage all other types of emergencies by a huge margin, indicating that the term had lent a sense of immediacy in taking collective action to countering the effects of global warming.

Climate emergency, therefore, was used three times more than the term ‘health emergency’, which was placed second, in 2019.

The term has been defined as the situation that requires urgent action to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage.

Several countries and cities have declared climate emergencies in 2019, including the UK, Canada and France. Australia’s Sydney, which has been ravaged by bush fires this month linked by many experts to climate change, had declared a climate emergency earlier this year.

Activists and environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace have been advocating for governments to declare climate emergencies as a step in the right direction towards taking concrete action to tackle climate change.

The Oxford report further said there was a clear shift in “language choice” over reporting on climate change, citing research and studies that have urged the world community to take immediate action for securing the planet’s future.

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in October last year appealed countries to take steps to drastically reduce carbon emissions to maintain temperatures within the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold.

Similarly, over 11,000 experts from around the world said that “planet Earth is facing a climate emergency” and called for controlling human population as an additional step to stem the impact of global warming in a stark warning published in the journal BioScience this month.

Earlier this month, Collins Dictionary declared ‘climate strike’ as its word of the year. The announcement came as 16-year-old Swedish teen Greta Thunberg sparked youth protests, with tens of thousands of students striking schools as part of the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement across the world.

‘Climate crisis’, ‘climate action’, ‘climate denial’, ‘extinction’, ‘flight shame’, ‘global heating’ and ‘plant-based’ were among the other words shortlisted by Oxford.

“Climate emergency may lead the pack, but this year our Word of the Year shortlist reflects the prominence of climate-related language documented in our corpus,” it said.

In 2018, Oxford Dictionaries chose ‘toxic’ as its word of the year and ‘youthquake’ in 2017.

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