Here is the transcript for Episode 2 of the series in which we explore the word Climate and other related words.
Welcome to the Clearly Sustainable series of podcasts exploring the meaning of English words and terms used in relation to all things sustainable. This series is an initiative with Global Action Plan International and is produced and presented by Victor Branagan. We hope you find this series useful.
This is the second episode in the Clearly Sustainable series in which we consider the word – Climate – We will talk about the term climate change, about climate control, and the difference between climate and environment. I am your host Victor and I am happy to have Elora with me today to talk about this –
Hello Everyone. The word climate is a noun that means the composite of weather conditions that prevail in a given area over a prolonged period of time. It can also refer to specific area having a particular kind of climate such as ‘hot climate’ or cold climate’. A further meaning is the prevailing trend of attitudes or conditions within a given group, place or time period – so we can say ‘there was a climate of political unrest in the country’.
Can you tell us Victor about how the word is used in relation to sustainability.
Yes, Elora. From a sustainability perspective the meaning of climate as ‘weather conditions’ is most often used because of the changes in climate conditions over the past few decades, believed to be caused by human behaviour and activity. This is referred to as ‘climate change’ and is supported by a huge number of scientists across the globe and is monitored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC.
A few years ago, in mainstream media climate change was first referred to as ‘global warming’ as it was felt that the planet would heat up alarmingly due to the depletion of the ozone layer around the earth. As the debates and understanding advanced it was recognised that the changes in weather patterns would also involve lower temperatures in some regions, increased rain and floods in others and droughts elsewhere. So the use of the term global warming was dropped in favour of the term ‘climate change’. This is an example of how quickly our use of terms associated with sustainability is evolving.
Climate change as a term now refers to often dramatic shifts in weather conditions caused by human activities. Obviously, climate changes all the time between seasons, weeks and even days in some places but when used as a stand alone term ‘climate change’ has this specific meaning.
But there are some people who do not accept that climate change is a real problem
Indeed there are, on the one level there are ‘climate change deniers’ which refers to those who do not accept that the changes are the result of human behaviour. Also there are ‘climate change skeptics’ which refers to those that greatly doubt that our human behaviour is the cause of a change in climate conditions. This has become an important political issue recently, particularly in the United States.
Victor, can you talk a little about some terms similar to ‘climate change’ but that have different meanings and so cause confusion for learners.
Yes, In English there are a couple of similar terms that have quite different meanings. For example, we can use the term ‘I need a change of climate’ – and this can mean that it is time for a break or a holiday or that I need a change of place, be that at work or at home.
We also sometimes speak of ‘a climate for change’ or ‘a climate of change’ often used in reference to an organisation or a workplace. There is a slight difference between the two phrases and it is that ‘a climate for change’ means that there is a willingness for change perhaps in the future whereas a ‘climate of change’ means there is an acceptance of change that is happening in the present.
What about the use of the word climate in association with other words?
The word climate can also be used in association with other words such as economic climate or business climate and these refer to the prevailing attitudes or trends within economics at a place or time of reference. For example, you can say that “the economic climate was depressed between 2008 and 2010” or the “business climate is dominated by the fear of the rapidly changing political situation”.
Another associated term used is ‘climate control’ particularly when talking about a building. This refers to the control of the heating, cooling and ventilation systems within a building to maintain an optimum ‘climate’ for the occupants. As we strive to reduce the carbon footprint of the buildings we occupy the issue of climate control is very important to the designers, engineers and building managers.
Can you tell me what is the difference between the words climate and environment and how are they used.
Sure, in the wider context climate refers to the wind, rain, sun etc. whereas environment also includes the physical elements of mountains, rivers, seas etc. Climate is a part of the environment, a very big part of it perhaps but not all of it.
Also, to continue with the building example, a building’s climate refers to the heating, cooling and ventilation systems within the building whereas the building environment would also include the layout, interior design, noise levels and the exterior surroundings, etc which add up to the total experience of the building. As another example, the difference between the terms business climate and business environment is that the business climate refers to the prevailing attitudes, beliefs, trends whereas the business environment would include the infrastructure such as markets, banking, the supports for business, the social conditions etc.
So what about the words ‘climatic’ and climactic, these are very confusing.
So, the adjective of climate is climatic and means relating to climate – such as climatic conditions – and this is sometimes confused by people with the adjective ‘climactic’ – which has an additional C before the T in the word. Climactic means pertaining to coming to a climax or peak and so is radically different to the adjective climatic. For example, when flood waters are reaching their peak they could be said to be climactic and though this may be due to the climatic conditions, real care should be taken not to confuse the two adjectives.
Ah right, Thank you, that can be confusing.
Hopefully, that covers some of the main uses of the word climate as it relates to sustainability and that you find this useful. This is the second in our series ‘clearly sustainable’. Thank you to Elora for her help today and to you for listening. We look forward to you joining us again for future episodes where we will discuss similar terms.