OED and The Climate Connection: Where there’s a CLIL, there’s a way

OED and The Climate Connection: Where there’s a CLIL, there’s a way

The Climate Connection (#TheClimateConnection) is a new podcast series from the British Council which explores the relationship between the climate crisis and language education. In partnership with Oxford University Press, and featuring a selection of our Oxford English Dictionary editors, the podcast explores the origins of climate-related language, in both English and other languages.


In the fourth episode of the series, OED Science Editor Trish Stewart examines the history of climate compound words, and how their meaning has shifted dramatically in recent times.

The most widespread climate compound is climate change. The idea that the climate of a specific region or area can change as a result of human activity isn’t new. The first recorded use of the compound climate change dates from 1854, in an American scientific periodical, and it reveals that even then there was disagreement over whether humans could cause changes in climate. According to the text, ‘many of the countries of Europe which now possess very mild winters, at one time experienced severe cold during this season of the year.’  It goes on to say that ‘Some have ascribed these climate changes to agriculture; the cutting down of dense forests, the exposure of the upturned soil to the summer’s sun, and the draining of great marshes.’ But the authors do not agree with this: ‘we do not believe that such great changes could have been produced on the climate of any country by agriculture, and we are certain that no such theory can account for the contrary change of climate – from warm to cold winters – which history tells us has taken place in other countries than those named.’  For example, they mention Greenland, the climate of which has changed even without the agricultural changes mentioned.  The paper instead proposes that changes in climate might be due to ‘the changeable position of the magnetic poles’.

“The term climate change itself has itself fluctuated in popularity. Seen as the more comprehensive term, it has replaced global warming, which was widely used in the late 20th century. It conveys the idea that there are changes occurring in addition to global warming, such as rising sea levels, retreating glaciers, accelerating ice melt, shifts in flowering and fruiting times for plants, and changes in animal migration patterns or animal hibernation patterns. The term climate emergency has come to be preferred by some, precisely because it is more emotive, because it is felt to better convey the seriousness of the situation we are in.”

Trish Stewart, OED Science Editor

Head to the full podcast to find out more about climate related words that have entered the OED, including climate change, as well as those that are on our watch-list, such as climate emergency, climate crisis, and climate strike.

You can listen and subscribe to the podcast in the following ways:

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts – just search for ‘The Climate Connection’ and subscribe, or paste the RSS feed URL into your podcast platform: https://feeds.captivate.fm/the-climate-connection

Listen on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/3vUC3xp

Listen on Apple: http://apple.co/3eEss8p

Listen on Google: https://bit.ly/3y4gAUG

For more on climate change research from Oxford University Press, Oxford Open Climate Change is a broad reaching interdisciplinary journal that aims to cover all aspects of climate change, including its impacts on nature and society, as well as solutions to the problem and their wider implications.


The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

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