Print

Print


I've advocated calling it "global storming" because warming sounds too  
benign. But calling it "the air we breathe" misses the real danger   
entirely. And "climate change" rather than , say, "climate breakdown"  
is also too mild.

Best,
Michael

On May 2, 2009, at 7:37 AM, Phil Gasper wrote:

> http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/us/politics/02enviro.html
>
> May 2, 2009
>
> Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesaurus
> By JOHN M. BRODER
>
> WASHINGTON - The problem with global warming, some environmentalists  
> believe, is "global warming."
>
> The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired  
> liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes,  
> according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by  
> ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm  
> in Washington.
>
> Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises,  
> talk about "our deteriorating atmosphere." Drop discussions of  
> carbon dioxide and bring up "moving away from the dirty fuels of the  
> past." Don't confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like "cap  
> and cash back" or "pollution reduction refund."
>
> EcoAmerica has been conducting research for the last several years  
> to find new ways to frame environmental issues and so build public  
> support for climate change legislation and other initiatives. A  
> summary of the group's latest findings and recommendations was  
> accidentally sent by e-mail to a number of news organizations by  
> someone who sat in this week on a briefing intended for government  
> officials and environmental leaders.
>
> Asked about the summary, ecoAmerica's president and founder, Robert  
> M. Perkowitz, requested that it not be reported until the formal  
> release of the firm's full paper later this month, but acknowledged  
> that its wide distribution now made compliance with his request  
> unlikely.
>
> The research directly parallels marketing studies conducted by oil  
> companies, utilities and coal mining concerns that are trying to  
> "green" their images with consumers and sway public policy.
>
> Environmental issues consistently rate near the bottom of public  
> worry, according to many public opinion polls. A Pew Research Center  
> poll released in January found global warming last among 20 voter  
> concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and  
> decreasing the influence of lobbyists. "We know why it's lowest,"  
> said Mr. Perkowitz, a marketer of outdoor clothing and home  
> furnishings before he started ecoAmerica, whose activities are  
> financed by corporations, foundations and individuals. "When someone  
> thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized  
> argument. When you say 'global warming,' a certain group of  
> Americans think that's a code word for progressive liberals, gay  
> marriage and other such issues."
>
> The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing,  
> is to reframe the issue using different language. "Energy  
> efficiency" makes people think of shivering in the dark. Instead, it  
> is more effective to speak of "saving money for a more prosperous  
> future." In fact, the group's surveys and focus groups found, it is  
> time to drop the term "the environment" and talk about "the air we  
> breathe, the water our children drink."
>
> "Another key finding: remember to speak in TALKING POINTS  
> aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom,  
> prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon  
> and details about policy, science, economics or technology," said  
> the e-mail account of the group's study.
>
> Mr. Perkowitz and allies in the environmental movement have been  
> briefing officials in Congress and the administration in the hope of  
> using the findings to change the terms of the debate now under way  
> in Washington.
>
> Opponents of legislation to combat global warming are engaged in a  
> similar effort. Trying to head off a cap-and-trade system, in which  
> government would cap the amount of heat-trapping emissions allowed  
> and let industry trade permits to emit those gases, they are  
> coaching Republicans to refer to any such system as a giant tax that  
> would kill jobs. Coal companies are taking out full-page  
> advertisements promising "clean, green coal." The natural gas  
> industry refers to its product as "clean fuel green fuel." Oil  
> companies advertise their investments in alternative energy.
>
> Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University, an expert on environmental  
> communications, said ecoAmerica's campaign was a mirror image of  
> what industry and political conservatives were doing. "The form is  
> the same; the message is just flipped," he said. "You want to sell  
> toothpaste, we'll sell it. You want to sell global warming, we'll  
> sell that. It's the use of advertising techniques to manipulate  
> public opinion."
>
> He said the approach was cynical and, worse, ineffective. "The right  
> uses it, the left uses it, but it doesn't engage people in a face-to- 
> face manner," he said, "and that's the only way to achieve real,  
> lasting social change."
>
> Frank Luntz, a Republican communications consultant, prepared a  
> strikingly similar memorandum in 2002, telling his clients that they  
> were losing the environmental debate and advising them to adjust  
> their language. He suggested referring to themselves as  
> "conservationists" rather than "environmentalists," and emphasizing  
> "common sense" over scientific argument.
> And, Mr. Luntz and Mr. Perkowitz agree, "climate change" is an  
> easier sell than "global warming."