Peter Dykstra: The crisis formerly known as climate change

Peter Dykstra: The crisis formerly known as climate change

The British industrial city Manchester is pretty much known for three contributions to global culture: Its soccer team, Manchester United; Herman's Hermits, the dreamy 60s pop band; and The Guardian newspaper, the nearly 200-year-old bastion of British liberalism.


The Guardian took its act internationally decades ago, and in recent years has published an American edition that routinely puts most homegrown U.S. media to shame in its reporting on issues like climate change.

A few weeks ago, The Guardian announced it was re-branding climate change, encouraging its writers and contributors to use more urgent terms like "climate crisis."

Here's why this is very wrong.

Climate change, or global warming, already has enough names for a public unready or unwilling to recognize it as the existential threat it is, whether or not "climate change" is the ideal, all-encompassing description for the biblical Ten Plagues that await us.

Don't get me wrong: "crisis" is a fine word. And I say that as a citizen of a nation plunging into a constitutional crisis that tends to steal all the headlines from other legitimate crises, including the climate one.

But to the extent that the public — at least the American public — has little clue or concern about the depth of the climate crisis, outright changing names on them serves no one well.

Not advocates, journalists, politicians, voters, nor the American majority who don't see enough crises out there to motivate them to vote.

What the planet can learn from Prince & Puffy

The headline of this piece refers of course to the late Prince Rogers Nelson, who abbreviated his name to Prince before reaching superstardom.

No one remembers that he changed his name three more times total, but none of his obituaries called him:

The name change impact was the same for Sean "Puffy" Combs/Puff Daddy/ P. Diddy/Diddy, who is still alive even if his star status is on life support. The marketing folly of these music icons has real relevance to how we discuss climate change.

We've invested a lot into presenting the public with the concept of "climate change." This isn't the first effort at re-branding.

Many, including John Holdren, Obama's Science Advisor, advocated "climate disruption" a few years back. It didn't take with many.

A communications guru backed "climate change" as the favored term 16 years ago. Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz counseled his soulmates to use "climate change" as a less threatening term than "global warming." Here's how The Guardian covered it in 2003.

Somehow, Luntz's good counsel was turned on its head. Many climate deniers, including the future Tweeter-in-Chief, saw "climate change" as a cynical re-branding by wealthy climate scientists to further bamboozle a gullible American public.

So, go figure.

For me, there's a twist on a time-honored American cliché that carries the day: Let's dance with the name that brung us.

Why the Guardian is wrong about re-branding "climate change"

environmental injustice
United Nations

Centering biodiversity and social justice in overhauling the global food system

“The food system is the single largest economic sector causing the transgressing of planetary boundaries.”

STOCKHOLM—With new evidence that human activity has pushed beyond limits needed to preserve ecosystems, the impact of food systems across the globe needs to be reassessed, according to scientists.

Keep reading...Show less
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Space tourism poses a significant ‘risk to the climate’

Rockets launched by billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson emit black carbon in the stratosphere, where it is 500 times worse for the climate than it is on earth.

Sweden's green revolution in response to climate change

A boom of renewable-powered industries have found a home in northern Sweden, fueling the country’s ambitions of a fossil-free economy.

What does sustainable travel mean?

Most people want to support sustainable tourism, even though the concept remains fuzzy.

Climate anxiety is widespread among youth—can they overcome it?

Millennials and Gen Z have grown up on a different planet with tougher choices than their parents. Accepting that is the first step in avoiding despair.

Fashion brands pause use of sustainability index tool over greenwashing claims

H&M has suspended its use of product labelling tool, The Higg Materials Sustainability Index.

As heat rises, who will protect farmworkers?

This year, Oregon adopted the most stringent heat protections for outdoor workers in the country. The new standard has been praised by advocates, but industry is already pushing back.

From our Newsroom
Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Noted ecologist John Harte offers a fresh take on the dire topic of climate change.

Colorado fracking

Colorado is the first state to ban PFAS in oil and gas extraction

The toxic “forever chemicals” are used in fracking wells across the country.

gun control

Peter Dykstra: Gun and climate change delusions

Millions here suffer from twin hallucinations: Guns don’t cause our mass shootings, and the climate isn’t changing.

Op-ed: An engine for social justice leads the way to change

Engine for social justice leads to change

Virginia Organizing's 27-year history as a role model for The Daily Climate

Using comedy to combat climate change

Using comedy to combat climate change

The Climate Comedy Cohort aims to help comedians infuse climate activism into their creative work.

roe v. wade

Derrick Z. Jackson: Roe v. Wade draft bodes ill for air, wetlands and the EPA

Justice Alito’s longstanding consistency in wanting to restrict EPA authority makes it transparent where he wants the court to go.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.