, Volume 106, Issue 4, pp 699-710
Date: 22 Apr 2011

A rose by any other name ...?: What members of the general public prefer to call “climate change”

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Abstract

Unlike many other environmental problems, the terms used to describe the phenomenon of increasing atmospheric concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases are many, with multiple and sometimes conflicting meanings. Whether there are meaningful distinctions in public perceptions of “global warming,” “climate change,” and “global climate change” has been a topic of research over the past decade. This study examines public preferences for these terms based on respondent characteristics, including climate change beliefs, political affiliation, and audience segment status derived from the “Global Warming’s Six Americas” classification. Certainty of belief in global warming, political affiliation and audience segment status were found to be the strongest predictors of preference, although “I have no preference” was the modal response. Global warming appears to be a more polarizing term than climate change, preferred most by people already concerned about the issue, and least by people who don’t believe climate change is occurring. Further research is needed to identify which of these two names promotes the engagement of people across the spectrum of climate change beliefs in constructive dialogue about the issue.