An emergency is a serious situation that requires immediate action. When someone calls 911 because they can’t breathe, that’s an emergency. When someone stumbles on the sidewalk because their chest is pounding and their lips are turning blue, that’s an emergency. Both people require help right away. Multiply those individuals by millions of people who have similar symptoms, and it constitutes the biggest global health emergency in a century: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now consider the following scenarios: A hurricane blasts Florida. A California dam bursts because floods have piled water high up behind it. A sudden, record-setting cold snap cuts power to the entire state of Texas. These are also emergencies that require immediate action. Multiply these situations worldwide, and you have the biggest environmental emergency to beset the earth in millennia: climate change.

Given the circumstances, Scientific American has agreed with major news outlets worldwide to start using the term “climate emergency” in its coverage of climate change. An official statement about this decision, and the impact we hope it can have throughout the media landscape, is below.

The planet is heating up way too fast. It’s time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here