"Global Warming" Gets a PR Makeover


How much does unappealing language hold back messages about global warming, um, I mean the "deteriorating atmosphere?" That's what the nonprofit PR firm ecoAmerica set out to study. Its findings suggested that no, people don't want to hear about "global warming," or even "climate change" -- it makes them freeze up and think about Al Gore -- but they wouldn't mind listening to a few value-focused "talking points."

Although the ecoAmerica study was just released yesterday, it's already been around the block a few times. About a month ago, a summary meant for government officials and environmental leaders was accidentally e-mailed to several news outlets, including the New York Times.

More recently, Grist reported on the document, which focuses on nearly every environmental buzzword out there. "Cap and trade" is too politically charged: "clean energy dividend" and "clean energy cash back" are the suggested replacements (although they make me think of mail-in rebates for pollution instead of cell phones or contact lenses). "Renewable energy" and "alternative energy" are too confusing. Instead, talk about "clean, safe sources of energy that never run out." But my favorite line has got to be: "Debating weather is not a successful strategy." Doesn't everyone like to talk about the weather?

While I agree that every message is best tailored to suit its audience, meaningless terms are frustrating (seriously, "clean energy cash back?"). And I'm not convinced that sanitizing multifaceted topics -- things that involve science, health, money and values -- is the way to promote compelling discussion. But then again, I suppose I'm not that on-the-fence demographic in need of wooing.

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