Picking the Right Words to Talk About Climate Change
Should we talk about “climate change” or “global warming”? Increases in emissions, or changes in global mean temperatures? Or do these choices even matter? In a recent blog post, communications strategist Jeremy Porter argues that what matters most for public engagement is not whether we talk about “climate change” or “global warming,” but whether or not we talk about the issue using language that is relevant, simple, and most important, personal.
As Porter points out, Californians are likely care less about climate change, and more about drought. And New Jerseyians are more concerned about another hurricane than rising greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, words like “pollution,” “health,” and “jobs” are more likely to evoke a response from the unconvinced than any combination of the words “warming,” “carbon dioxide,” “global,” “greenhouses gases,” or “climate change.” For more tips on the best strategies for engaging the public on climate change, check out ecoAmerica’s 2014 American Climate Values research.
Jeremy Porter, Freelance Communications Strategist
In Nebraska, there’s a father thinking about his children’s health and education. In Oregon there’s a mother thinking about the pressures of her job. In Virginia there’s a couple thinking about the bills they will struggle to pay. And when asked if they think global warming or climate change is happening, none of them think it is.
They are not alone. Whether you use “global warming” or “climate change”, 40 percent of Americans don’t think it’s happening. That’s the finding in the recent Yale report that campaigners, scientists, and politicians (advocates) should be paying attention to.
Image credit: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen via Jeremy Porter Communications