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Articles by Staff Writer Kate Yoder

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The way people talk about our overheating planet has been getting pretty spicy. Bland, neutral-sounding phrases like global warming are out; evocative words like crisis and emergency are in. Some activists have argued that more urgent language will jolt people into realizing that climate change is already here, prompting a speedier effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. As an opinion piece in the Guardian once put it: “Our planet is in crisis. But until we call it a crisis, no one will listen.”

New research, however, casts doubt on this premise. A study recently published in the journal Climatic Change is among the first to examine the effects of using climate crisis and climate emergency. It reported that reading these phrases “did not have any effect on public engagement,” measured in terms of whether the words had altered people’s emotions, their support for climate policy, or their belief that action could make a difference.

“We were pretty surprised that the terminology has such minimal effects,” said Lauren Feldman, a professor of media studies at Rutgers University and a coauthor of the study. Researchers found one instance where the stronger phrasin... Read more

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