Climate Change: the Terminological Timeline

It is often said that a picture speaks a thousand words. The run of pictures below, it is hoped, will do a little more. They exist as a counterpoint to that laziest of claims - that, a few years ago, "they (the IPCC, Greenpeace, the Committee for Compulsory Implementation of Agenda 21 - take your pick) changed 'global warming' to 'climate change' because (insert pet theory here)".

Skeptical Science has of course published a detailed rebuttal to the talking-point here. But it's important to remind readers that an attempt to make that change in terminology actually occurred - but not by those who are usually accused of the act. Neither was it done for the reasons typically claimed by the opposition: in fact exactly the opposite. In 2002, prior to the mid-terms, the G.W. Bush administration (not exactly famous for its environmental track-record) sought advice on policy communication. It came, from Republican advisor and strategist Frank Luntz, in a long memo (PDF extract here), which included the observation:

"The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science."

Luntz went on to advise:

"The terminology in the upcoming environmental debate needs refinement, starting with “global warming” and ending with “environmentalism.” It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming and “conservation” instead of preservation.

1.  “Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming.” As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

So there you have it. The only recorded attempt to emphasise "climate change" over "global warming" was to make the latter feel a bit cuddly to prospective Republican voters in 2002. But next time you run into someone trying to suggest otherwise, something that happens multiple times every day, simply link to this page and invite other readers to come and see for themselves. The following images are screengrabs mostly from PDF copies (available via Google Scholar) of peer-reviewed papers going back to the mid 1950s and ending in 1977, when an actual journal called Climatic Change was launched - oh, and don't forget to remind your protagonist of what "CC" stands for in IPCC (founded 1988).

Contrarians may take no notice, but many other readers will be quite capable of making their own minds up, if given checkable evidence. In all but one instance, they can do just that by clicking on a screengrab - they are linked straight to PDF copies of the papers concerned.












Posted by John Mason on Wednesday, 27 August, 2014

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