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Global Warming is Not Happening. Climate Change Is.
44% of the people in one of America’s political parties assert that “global warming” is not happening. 60% of those same people believe that “climate change” is. That’s a 16 percentage point gap driven entirely by semantics.

When Americans from all parties are asked, there is an 8 point difference in their level of environmental concern, depending on the specific words used. There’s a lesson or three in those statistics.

Experts believe that “global warming” is viewed as less likely to be true than “climate change” because consumers react to expressions based on their personal experience. Previous research shows that individuals’ belief in global warming declines after a cold snap, and actually increases when they spend time in a warm room just before answering questions. At the same time, everyday life reinforces the concept of “climate change.” Last year we had a dry winter, this year we’re having lots of rain, so yes, the climate is changing, their thinking goes.

Over the past year, we’ve heard that consumers are less concerned about climate change. Is that really true? Or are those survey results due to changes in wording, or more likely, changes in how people feel about specific words? It’s hard to tell.

We should think about...
  • Are we using enough care when we choose the specific words we use in marketing messages?
  • Would consumers be more likely to believe us if we talked in specifics, rather than used big picture descriptions such as “climate change” in our communications?
Source: Public Opinion Quarterly 2011
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