The term is a recently adopted description of the effects of a changing climate with warming, storms, floods, fires, and other extreme events.  We have been calling the general condition “climate change” but many people — including scientists, journalists, activists, politicians — believe that recent studies by the United Nations and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that the impacts from these changes in our global climate are so severe, and dangerous, that we need stronger language to speak of it.  Thus, the term “climate breakdown” is fast replacing “climate change.”







The term “breakdown” is of course a harsher word, with negative connotations in its meanings of “failure to function” or “decomposition” or “collapse.”  The phrase “climate change” is neutral in that it could be positive or negative.  What we are learning is that there is very little if anything positive about what we are doing to the panet and its climate.

While the use of “destruction” in connection with climate is becoming more common, it has been used in the past, e.g., by the enviornmental journalist George Monbiot in 2013.


Some further ideas to explore on Climate Breakdown:

What other words would accurately describe the unfolding impacts from the changing climate?

Which of all these words is your favorite?

Do you think there is any danger that using stronger language will turn some people off from listening to others about the impacts of a changing climate?



“Breakdown,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

George Monbiot, “Climate change? Try catastrophic climate breakdown,” The Guardian (27 Sept 2013).

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, “Newsletter: Climate Breakdown,” Popular Resistance (3 September 2017).

See, also, “Climate Change Linguistic Tipping Point: How we talk about climate change is shifting,” in the ieBLOG section of the current issue of irish environment online magazine.

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