A state-funded German broadcaster has advocated for only extreme language being used when discussing the topic of climate change. (Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images)


Use only ‘extreme language’ to discuss climate change, German broadcaster says


A state-funded German broadcaster has advocated for only “extreme language” to be used when discussing climate change.

North-Rhine Westphalia radio station WDR has pushed for a wide variety of terms relating to the climate to be abandoned in favour of more radical-sounding alternatives.

“Language is powerful because how we speak affects how we think,” Monitor, an online magazine published by WDR, wrote on social media.


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“This also applies to our language about the climate. Many linguists say that this [currently] is often rather trivialising.”

In the post, the group argues that “climate change”, “global warming” and “climate sceptic” all cease to be used in favour of more extreme terminology such as “climate crisis”, “global heating” and “climate denier”.

The group also wants Germans to stop using the term “nuclear power”, preferring the phrase “atomic energy” instead, seemingly because it sounds more alarming.

“[The term nuclear power was] introduced by proponents of the technology in the 1960s because ‘atom’ had negative connotations from the atomic bomb”. The broadcaster said “technical and clean” terminology should be abandoned in favour of the older, tainted, alternative.

WDR also attempts in its post to pre-emptively play down any accusations that it is trying to control free speech.

“Before anyone senses bans or ‘language police’: Of course, everyone can use any term in our democracy,” it writes. “However, we think it makes sense to think about which term best describes it.”

Such a denial is tainted somewhat by the German broadcaster’s previous “green” coverage, with WDR becoming embroiled in controversy only a few days ago over seemingly “dishonest” climate reporting.

In a vox pop covering a climate-activist campaign run by a supermarket, the broadcaster interviewed one Hannah Mertens, who vocally praised the corporation’s green efforts.

An external investigation by journalists and members of the public uncovered that Mertens was not simply a random German citizen but a reporter working for WDR itself.

Although later admitting that Mertens works for the station, WDR has denied any intentional wrongdoing, arguing that it was pure chance that she was interviewed by the crew at the time.

The broadcaster also alleges that Mertens tried to identify herself as a WDR journalist during the interview but that the crew “misheard” her and so continued with the vox pop.

WDR has now asked for the public to “forget about the whole incident”, claiming it is “ridiculous” to suggest it was unable to find a member of the public interested in praising the climate campaign and so needed to employ an “actor”.