Bill Nye says how we talk about climate change matters

“Words are always watered down,” he said, pointing to discussions at COP26 , a United Nations climate conference. Changing the language ...


“Words are always watered down,” he said, pointing to discussions at COP26, a United Nations climate conference. Changing the language of climate change can be harmful, he said. For example, using the phrase “coal phase-out” instead of “coal phase-out” dilutes the meaning and intensity of the conversation about the effect of coal on the environment.

“Our future depends on getting the tone right,” said Daniel Blumstein, a professor at UCLA’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability. He added that the goal should be to eliminate as many carbon-producing energy sources as possible and replace them with carbon-free ones. “While there may be a transition that requires certain carbon-intensive energy sources,” Blumstein said, “the word ‘out’ conjures up a future where coal has no substantial role, where the word ‘down’ implies that we just want to reduce it a bit.”

When people say humans are likely to be responsible for climate change, “it’s not the same as saying it’s our fault,” Nye said. The phrases “climate change” and “global warming” are just two sides of the same coin, he said. And while the conversation about global warming can seem daunting, Nye thinks “everyone should be worried about climate change.”

The phrase “clean coal” for example, can be confusing and polarizing. The term, which was popularized by coal industry groups in 2008, is often understood to refer to coal-fired power plants that capture carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks and bury it underground in an effort to limit global warming. It is important to note that, regardless of plant technology, coal mining is a highly polluting practice that often damages streams and other waterways.

“Global warming” has been gradually replaced, in many cases, by “climate change,” said Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University. One of the downsides to the term “global warming” is that it can be interpreted to mean only rising temperatures, so other catastrophic effects may not seem linked, Tannen said. “Global warming” recognizes the general trend toward warmer temperatures, but largely neglects local effects, which are experienced as changes in extremes, said climatologist and Harvard professor Marianna Linz. These extremes could include heat, but they could also be droughts, floods, or tornadoes.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Bill Nye says how we talk about climate change matters
Bill Nye says how we talk about climate change matters
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