Global warming vs. climate change, taxes vs. prices: Does word choice matter?
- 1.1k Downloads
Does “climate change” seem like a less serious problem than “global warming” to Americans and Europeans? Does describing the costs of climate change mitigation in terms of “higher taxes” instead of “higher prices” reduce public support for such efforts? In an experiment embedded in an American national survey, respondents were randomly assigned to rate the seriousness of “global warming,” “climate change,” or “global climate change.” Contrary to predictions made by a leading political strategist, the full sample and political Independents perceived “climate change” and “global warming” to be equally serious. Among Republicans, “climate change” was perceived to be more serious than “global warming,” whereas the reverse was true among Democrats. A similar experiment embedded in a survey of residents of 31 European countries showed that “global warming” and “climate change” were perceived to be equally serious problems. And an experiment embedded in an American survey showed that describing the increased costs of climate change mitigation legislation via “higher taxes” instead of via “higher prices” did not reduce popular support for such legislation, also contradicting a political strategy memo. Thus, word choice may sometimes affect public perceptions of the climate change seriousness or support for mitigation policies, but a single choice of terminology may not influence all people the same way, making strategic language choices difficult to implement.
KeywordsClimate Change Global Warming Language Choice Seriousness Rating Future Global Warming
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Butler K (2004) Winning words: George Lakoff says environmentalists need to watch their language. Sierra 89:54–56Google Scholar
- Dunlap RE, McCright AM (2008) A widening gap: republican and democratic views on climate change. Environment 50:26–35Google Scholar
- European Commission (2009) Eurobarometer 69.2: National and European Identity, European Elections, European Values, and Climate Change, March–May 2008, (Computer file). Conducted by TNS OPINION & SOCIAL, Brussels, requested and coordinated by the European Commission, Directorate General Press and Communication, Opinion Polls. ZA4744 [version identification], Cologne Germany: GESIS, 2009Google Scholar
- Lakoff G (1996) Moral politics: what conservatives know that liberals don’t. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- Lakoff G (2004) Don’t think of an elephant: know your values and frame the debate. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River JunctionGoogle Scholar
- Luntz F (1988) Candidates, consultants, and campaigns: the style and substance of American electioneering. Blackwell, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Luntz F (2002) The environment: a cleaner, safer, healthier America. Luntz Research, AlexandriaGoogle Scholar
- Luntz F (2007) Words that work: it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. Hyperion, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Senate EPW Staff (2009) A strategy for climate change: consumers vs. big business. Memo written to the House and Senate energy and environment staff, May 14, 2009.Google Scholar
- TNS Opinion & Social (2008) Europeans’ attitudes towards climate change. Special Eurobarometer 300, Wave 69.2. European Commission, BrusselsGoogle Scholar