Communicating Climate-Change and Natural Hazard Risk and Cultivating Resilience

Volume 45 of the series Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research pp 37-54

Polluted Discourse: Communication and Myths in a Climate of Denial

  • Peter H. JacobsAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University Email author 
  • , Ari JokimäkiAffiliated withSkeptical Science
  • , Ken RiceAffiliated withInstitute for Astronomy, School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Edinburgh
  • , Sarah A. GreenAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, Michigan Technological University
  • , Bärbel WinklerAffiliated withSkeptical Science

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Human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels, are changing the climate. Despite widespread scientific consensus on this fact, communicating the risks posed by climate change to the public remains challenging. We examine the role of contrarian narratives in climate communication, focusing on two terminological claims—(1) that scientists abandoned the term global warming in favor of climate change in response to a change in temperature evolution, and (2) that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is the mainstream scientific position—and find them to be without merit. We discuss how scientists and communicators can neutralize these myths while informing the public. Finally, we summarize the existing literature on word choice in climate communications and suggest best practices based on target audiences.


Climate change Global warming Terminology Science communication