Environmentalists' Vocabulary Problem

"Global warming" is a tougher sell than "climate change."


The New York Times wrote recently about an issue I've noticed in the comments of this blog  - climate change deniers' aversion to the terminology "global warming." It's true: we have a vocabulary problem.

From Climate Change Could Ruin Your Brunch:

I think that maple syrup will be the least of the worries if as you left wing, tree huggers claim that the world is coming to an end due to "Climate Change" aka global warming. Had to change the term because the data really doesn't support warming and you don't want to claim the next ice age is coming AGAIN like you did back in the 1970's. --Larry, Calif.*

From Citizen Scientists Monitor Global Warming:

Since world wide temps have been falling for the past 3 years - it's good they're changing the label on the bottle of snake oil to "Climate Change"... nice marketing. A bit of advice... fear the return of the ice - it's the real killer of the planet and civilization. -- R.L. Schaefer, Calif.

From Mermaids, Aliens and Bigfoot Want You to Believe in Clean Coal:

What happen to GLOBAL WARMING, Now its CLIMATE CHANGE. There is no human made climate change! No proof,Nada, Just like Bigfoot and Aliens, No proof, lots of believers just no proof sorry! Just the left tring to stop free markets [sic] -- Stacy, Fla.

The term is a turn-off, says a poll from ecoAmerica, because it evokes images of Birkenstock-wearing granola-eating "socialist" hippies. It also provides plenty of fodder for the 24-hour news networks when global warming protests or conversations take place on snowy days, like the recent Power Shift conference ("global warming" refers to the planet's overall temperature changes, not to daily weather - a fact that, understandably, can be misconstrued). "Climate change," is now the preferred term, as it is an easier sell.

Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”

Another problem, and one that members of the green blogosphere struggle with, is that the term "going green" has become so ubiquitous that it verges on losing its meaning altogether. The difficult thing is, no one's come up with a better one. And when all of these phrases and terms are renamed, comments from skeptics abound.

The article suggests that members of the environmental movement take cues from marketers, who work to rebrand companies all the time. But as environmentalists check their thesauruses, they'd do well to remember that rebranding, if done in haste, can be a gamble, as consumers and CEOs know all too well - New Coke, anyone?

*Comment is excerpted from the original, which was removed for violating our comment policy.


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