Q: "Global warming" or "climate change": Which term do you prefer?

A: "People are now sufficiently familiar with the problem that they’ll recognize it regardless of the name.  They know it by its consequences, like heat waves, drought, and forest fires. It’s like seeing a face on a Most Wanted poster; the name doesn’t matter."

— Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University Professor of Geosciences 

"There is a huge difference between the terms, which is why I always, always refer to global warming as what it is — global warming. I think we have Frank Luntz to thank for the term 'climate change,' which was popularized by the current administration as being the 'less scary' phrase. It always upsets me when I hear people using it because it has been successfully forced on the public to soften the sell."

— Laurie David, Global Warming Activist and founder of StopGlobalWarming.org

"The U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other oil-producing countries lobbied the U.N. in the late 1980s to change the language of early resolutions from 'global warming' to 'climate change' because the latter is vaguer and less frightening, and also because it doesn’t point the finger so directly at the burning of fossil fuels as the cause. While 'climate change' is scientifically correct (because a local climate might get colder rather than hotter), it obscures the fact that such changes will be a result of the rising mean temperature of the planet — i.e., of global warming. In fact, one scientist I spoke to said that he didn’t think 'global warming' was a vivid or troubling enough description given the severity of the problem — he might have preferred 'climate chaos' or 'climate meltdown.'"

— Steven Poole, Author of Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons

This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2007.

Copyright Environ Press 2007