Before man arrived on planet Earth, conditions on the planet changed over time, sometimes violently, other times more gradually. All these changes have produced favourable conditions for life as we know it today to develop. As a general definition, we can also say that everything can be considered as changing over time, even the climate.

Why, then, do we speak of climate crisis and climate emergency?

To understand it best, we must first go to the root of the meaning of the word crisis: it derives from the Latin crísis, from the Greek krísis derived from kríno (I separate, decide, distinguish, judge). Hence a moment that separates one way of being (or a series of phenomena) from a different one, a decisive turn that a given situation takes. In medical language, a sudden change in a favourable, or unfavourable, direction of an illness.

Crisis is a turning point, decisive.

Emergence derives from emergence: the act of emerging, that which emerges. In practice, anything that becomes of such prominence that it rises above other conditions or situations.

One could speak of a simpler change of climate where this does not create a condition of choice, let alone one so evident that one must pay close attention to it.

Instead, one speaks of a climate emergency because extreme conditions, or much more extreme conditions, are already occurring and can be seen and verified in a tangible, evident and undeniable way.

We speak of a climate crisis because we are facing a decisive turning point, which may lead to a favourable or unfavourable condition for every form of life on the planet, concerning economic, social, health, geopolitical and environmental aspects.

We speak of both in a global way, without distinction of borders, of race, of nationality, or even of more or less evolved society, or of economic wealth. This is because climate has no borders, extreme events occur everywhere, and possible solutions and actions must be deployed by each of us, according to our possibilities, in a choral manner.

They are both assessed on a timeline from today to future generations, because emergency conditions are already occurring all over the world and the consequences of our choices today will affect us, our children and our grandchildren today and tomorrow. In a less serious way if we act now and with certain choices, in a much more serious way if we do nothing, or very little.

That is why it is not possible to treat it as a simple climate change.

It is part of the series: Understanding the climate crisis

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