New Research: ‘Global Warming’ Resonates More Strongly Than ‘Climate Change’
New research suggests that climate communicators may be better off using the term “global warming” rather than “climate change.” The research, conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, includes a suite of studies designed to uncover Americans’ familiarity and associations with the two different terms.
Overall, the report’s studies indicate that “global warming” and “climate change” are far from synonymous. Rather, the terms mean different things to different groups and activate different sets of beliefs and feelings. While the authors caution that Americans’ associations with the two terms may change over time (and may even become synonymous), the following findings currently hold true:
1. While the American public is equally familiar with both terms, they report hearing and using the term “global warming” more frequently than “climate change.”
2. Americans are more likely to say that “global warming” (73%) is a “bad thing” than they are to say “climate change” is a “bad thing” (63%).
3. Americans report being more worried about “global warming” than they do about “climate change.” While 15% of Americans say they are “very worried” about global warming, just 9% say they are “very worried” about climate change, a statistically significant difference.
4. Americans are more likely to think that “global warming” will harm themselves and their families than they are to think that “climate change” will harm themselves and their families.
5. Americans tend to associate extreme weather with “global warming” more so than “climate change.” In contrast, Americans tend to associate general weather patterns with “climate change” more so than “global warming.”
Yale Project on Climate Communication Staff
We found that the term “global warming” is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement, and support for personal and national action than the term “climate change.”
For example, the term “global warming” is associated with:
- Greater certainty that the phenomenon is happening, especially among men, Generation X (31-48), and liberals;
- Greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause among Independents;
- Greater understanding that there is a scientific consensus about the reality of the phenomenon among Independents and liberals;