The language of climate change

Posted on April 20, 2020

Being environmentally friendly is important to me. I try to do my part by recycling, repurposing and reusing. I also make lifestyle choices that reduce my environmental footprint. However, these small acts may seem trivial when we consider all the changes that need to be made worldwide to counter global warming.

Whether you’re eco-anxious (écoanxieux (opens in new tab)) or a climate change denier (climatonégationniste (opens in new tab)), you can’t ignore how much media coverage climate change is getting in 2020. When more than half a million people take part in a march for climate action, paralyzing part of downtown Montreal, it gets people talking! And if we’re going to talk about climate change in French, we need the right words.

The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) has chosen to address the unavoidable topic of climate change by compiling a glossary. In the creation of any glossary, collaboration with subject-matter experts is essential to ensure that the information on the terminology records is valid. So we sought the input of experts from Quebec’s department of the environment (a no-brainer!) and the Ouranos research consortium. Our team of terminologists focused on concepts related to the causes and effects of climate change and to ways of fighting it.

Determining the cause: Natural versus anthropogenic

Could climate change be a natural process? Well … in part! The OQLF’s glossary includes concepts related to natural phenomena, such as the parasol effect (effet parasol (opens in new tab)). However, humans have played a role in climate change. Our research has made this very clear to us, and our environmental experts have confirmed it. Through our daily activities, we contribute to ocean thermal expansion (expansion thermique des océans (opens in new tab)), deforestation (déforestation (opens in new tab)) and permafrost melt (fonte du pergélisol (opens in new tab)).

Naming and defining new concepts

What is macroalgal cultivation (macroalgoculture (opens in new tab))? Or solastalgia (solastalgie (opens in new tab))? What should we call the phenomenon of seawater flooding coastal land? There are so many new concepts to name and define. Obviously, a glossary produced in just a few months can’t include all the concepts relating to such a vast field. This glossary covers many of the top issues in the news, and with your help, we can enrich it with other concepts over time. Write to the Grand dictionnaire terminologique team (opens in new tab)! You'll see the glossary being updated in almost real time!

If you want to know more about the various concepts related to climate change, you’ll find nearly 80 terminology records in our glossary “Dans l’air du temps : vocabulaire des changements climatiques (opens in new tab).”

Translated by Josephine Versace, Language Portal of Canada


The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Francis Pedneault

Francis Pedneault

Francis Pedneault has been working as a terminology coordinator at the Office québécois de la langue française since 2017. With a translation degree from Laval University, Francis has over 15 years’ experience in terminology. Over the course of his career, he has worked on various projects, including glossaries on aeronautics, sports, management, artificial intelligence and e-commerce. He is also a member of various committees, including the committee on the treatment of borrowings at the Office québécois de la langue française.

Leave a comment

Please consult the “Comments and interaction” section on the Terms and conditions page before adding your comment. The Language Portal of Canada reviews comments before they’re posted. We reserve the right to edit, refuse or remove any question or comment that violates these commenting guidelines.

By submitting a comment, you permanently waive your moral rights, which means that you give the Government of Canada permission to use, reproduce, edit and share your comment royalty-free, in whole or in part, in any manner it chooses. You also confirm that nothing in your comment infringes third party rights (for example, the use of a text from a third party without his or her permission).

Join in the conversation and share your comments!


Comments are displayed in the language they were submitted.

Read comments

Submitted by Desmond Fisher on April 21, 2020, at 15:21

This is a great overview. Thanks! The article takes a careful approach to a sensitive topic. Cool to learn some new terms as well!

Submitted by marco de cumplimiento corporativo on December 23, 2022, at 10:18

I enjoyed reading your content. Keep doing your best work.