Climate Change is not Man Made

Oh yes. You read that right. “Climate change,” is not man-made. However, this is not to say that the rise in greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere (such as nitrous oxide, methane, and of course carbon dioxide), aren’t a result of human consumption. To be clear, there is no denying that the skyrocketing levels of these gases are the direct result of human activities.

My assertion that “climate change” is not manmade isn’t that I’m in disagreement with climate scientists, but is meant to show my disdain for the term. Working as a linguist for five years, I learned that the words we use matter, words have an affect on the way we think and comprehend our world. We should all stop using “climate change,” when we talk about the harmful affects of human consumption on our planet. When the knowledge about the increase of greenhouse gas emissions first began to become widespread (1975) we used the positively welcoming term “global warming” (which was honestly a step up from how it was referred to; “inadvertent climate modification”). “Global warming sounds amazing to me! Who likes to be cold anyway? There were, not surprisingly, few calls to action from the masses when this term was used.

These days, we frequently hear the dangerously neutral, “climate change.” Of course the climate changes, there was an ice age in the history of our own species! There’s nothing to worry about there, it’s just natural cycles (so the argument goes). The change in our atmosphere couldn’t possibly be due to the rampant consumption, and burning of fossil fuels with something so benign as “climate change!” Very few are able to get fired up about something so bland.

I suggest we use a new term, one that brings attention to the fact that the changes in our atmosphere, and the resulting changes in our global climate are a result of human beings. A term that expresses the gravity of the situation, and allows us to take responsibility for our own actions: Climate Disruption. This term was suggested in 2014 by then White House science advisor John Holdren, but I recently learned of this phrasing from Ma’ikwe Ludwig’s (must-read) new book, Together Resilient: Building Community in the Time of Climate Disruption (it’s right there in the subtitle!). Now there’s a term that better characterizes the situation, and gives the sense of urgency needed to find solutions.

Using words that are more indicative of reality will help us change our thinking, prioritize positive changes, and inspire others to do the same. I hope that you will join the efforts to reverse the affects of, and heal the damage to our planet caused by Climate Disruption.

By Jamie Gaines

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