What's in a Name? Global Warming vs. Climate Change in the Eyes of Americans
In a surprising report released today by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, researchers looked at the impact of the two most common terms for human-induced climate warming—global warming and climate change—on Americans.
The authors found that the term "global warming" is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement and support for personal and national action than the term "climate change," which is often favored by scientists.
Among other findings, the report—What's In A Name? Global Warming vs. Climate Change—showed the term "global warming" appears to be associated with:
- Greater certainty that the phenomenon is happening, especially among men, Generation X (31-48) and liberals.
- Greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause among Independents.
- Greater understanding that there is a scientific consensus about the reality of the phenomenon among Independents and liberals.
- More intense worry about the issue, especially among men, Generation Y (18-30), Generation X, Democrats, liberals and moderates.
- A greater sense of personal threat, especially among women, the Greatest Generation (68+), African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents, Republicans, liberals and moderates.
- Higher issue priority ratings for action by the president and Congress, especially among women, Democrats, liberals and moderates.
- Greater willingness to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action, especially among men, Generation X, liberals and moderates.
While for some in-the-know, the two phrases are often seen as synonymous, the report—which analyzed three separate studies—clearly shows that they mean different things to different Americans. The general public tends to favor the term "global warming"—and perhaps we should take note.
The need for climate mitigation seems to be growing more urgent by the day. Just this month, the Obama Administration released the National Climate Report which concluded that global warming is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, Center for Naval Analyses released its National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change report saying that climate change is a "catalyst for conflict" and University of California, Irvine conclusively stated that the West Antarctic glacier has melted past the point of no return and will inevitably raise sea levels by up to four feet.
Yet, the climate deniers still wield alarming influence. Big contenders with even bigger pocket books, like the Koch Brothers, are able to pump money into anti-climate campaigns, bills and agendas, drowning out the voices of scientists who continue to prove that climate change—or, global warming, rather—is real, caused in part by humans and happening right now.
Could the expression "climate change" be the culprit for the lack of action taken on the issue? Cognitive meaning can and does change, so perhaps with the continued use of "climate change," it will come to acquire a similar meaning as "global warming" in the minds of Americans. But language choices can influence public policy. The terms we use to describe our world shape the way in which we see it. And, as with most things, the key to mobilizing the public is to appeal to emotions on a personal level, which as this study has shown, might be better conjured by a simple change of phrase.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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