Study: Replacing “Global Warming” with “Weather” Engages Climate Skeptics

Essay by Eric Worrall

UT School of Journalism Professor Renita Coleman is lead author of a study which suggest journalists who want to engage climate skeptics should replace the term “Global Warming” with “Weather”.

Want to reach sceptics? Researchers suggest leaving the term ‘climate change’ out of some news coverage

By  Denise-Marie Ordway Thursday June 23, 2022

If newsrooms want climate science sceptics to read and share news about climate change, researcher Renita Coleman recommends they do this: Leave the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ out of their coverage.

“Research seems to indicate those are trigger words for sceptics,” says Coleman, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “This is what we found would trigger them to stop reading and instantly become hostile, [believing] ‘Oh, that story is biased or that media organisation is biased.’”

Coleman is the lead author of a new paper that investigates strategies to help journalists reach people who distrust science. She and her colleagues conducted an experiment that indicates small changes in how journalists cover climate change have the potential to elicit substantial changes in the way sceptics engage with the news.

In the experiment, after reading a news story that incorporated the three changes below, sceptics said they would likely seek out and share more news about climate change. They also said they would likely take steps to help mitigate its damage.  

Read more:

The abstract of the study;

Reaching Science Skeptics: How Adaptive Framing of Climate Change Leads to Positive Responses Via Persuasion Knowledge and Perceived Behavioral Control

Renita ColemanEsther ThorsonCinthia JimenezKami Vinton

First Published May 19, 2022 Research Article 


This study extends framing theory by identifying two causal mechanisms and one contingent condition for a new type of frame to be used with issues where people dispute scientific claims. This new “adaptive frame” focuses on adapting to climate change impacts without cueing deeply held beliefs by discussing causes. An experiment shows this frame works by reducing persuasion knowledge and increasing perceived behavioral control, resulting in science skeptics being significantly more likely to intend to take action, engage with the news, and agree with the story’s perspective. This effect is moderated by science skepticism, with adaptive frames working significantly better on the very people the news media are not reaching. We contribute to theory with an understanding of how a frame that eliminates references to deep-seated beliefs is more effective than the existing frames of conflict, attribution of responsibility, and possibly others.

Read more (Paywalled):

Of course, leaving out trigger words like “climate change” and “global warming” might lead to less engagement by climate alarmists. So maybe journalists need to publish two different versions of the same story? Or can they aim to engage different audiences on different weeks?

Here’s a radical thought – perhaps journalists could ease back on the trigger words and other attempts to manipulate the emotions of their audience, and try just presenting the facts.

via Watts Up With That?

June 24, 2022 at 12:32PM

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