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Global warming or climate change? Get the term right!

(Glacier covered to prevent melting in Switzerland, 2010)

I came across some interesting research results about how people’s scepticism about climate change relates to what term is used to describe it.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan says a lot of Americans are sceptical about “global warming”, but fewer of them are sceptical about “climate change”. “Wording matters” is the message from the lead author Jonathon Schuldt from the UM Dept. of Psychology. The results indicate that 74% of people though the problem was real if asked about the world’s temperature changing and a “phenomenon called climate change”. But the percentage was reduced to 68 when it was referred to as “global warming”.
This seems very plausible to me. A lot of people will make comments about a “lack of global warming” if you talk to them during an extremely cold period. But the more neutral expression “climate change” also describes cold spells or increased extreme weather events as a result of the overall changes to the planet.
The study also has some interesting conclusions about differences between Democrats and Republicans in terms of use of language and response to different terms. You can read the abstract for yourselves online in the Public Opinion Quarterly.
Let me just give you one encouraging conclusion.
“The good news is that Americans may not be as polarized on the issue as previously though. The extent of the partisan divide on this issues depends heavily on question wording”, says one of the authors, Norbert Schwarz.


March 10, 2011 | 11:49 am



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