Polluted Discourse: Communication and Myths in a Climate of Denial

Part of the Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research book series (NTHR, volume 45)


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 



The authors would like to thank Anne-Marie Blackburn, John Cook, David Kirtley, Bob Lacatena, Dana Nuccitelli, Mark Richardson, Andy Skuce, Glenn Tamblyn, and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful suggestions. The authors would also like to thank the editors, especially Katia Kontar, for their guidance. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and PolicyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Skeptical ScienceBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics and AstronomyThe University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  4. 4.Department of ChemistryMichigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA

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