Several weeks ago a comment was posted on a BusinessGreen article that mused on why "climate change" had replaced the term "global warming".
It was, of course, all part of a global conspiracy.
"Did you notice it went from "global warming" to "climate change"?" asked Greg. "That way when they're forced to admit that the earth is now in fact cooling it won't be so hard... all they will have to do is whip up a panic about the coming ice age, deja vu 1975ish."
Now not withstanding the rather dubious reasoning - just because the scientists were wrong about global cooling in the seventies doesn't mean they are wrong now - and the fact that Greg's conspiracy theory does not stand up to even the mildest scrutiny he does raise an interesting point around how "climate change" has displaced "global warming" as the term to describe the current environmental crisis.
Far from being the work of a cabal of scientists concerned that their predictions may on global warming may have to be reversed the recent pre-eminence of "climate change" can be credited to one Frank Luntz, a republican pollster and communications guru who in a 2002 memo advised President Bush to ditch the term "global warming" in favour of "climate change".
In the memo, which was leaked in 2004 and also advised the administration to step up its attempts to cast doubt on the science surrounding global warming, Luntz recommended that "climate change" would appear less threatening to voters than the more apocalyptic "global warming".
The advice was evidently acted on with the phrase "global warming" all but disappearing from President Bush's speeches between 2001 and 2002.
Luntz has since sought to distance himself from both the memo's recommendations and the Bush administration claiming in a recent interview with The Independent that "seven years ago there was a real battle over whether the earth was going through global warming. Now I don't believe there is. I'm willing to accept the science as it is. I would not have written that memo today".
However, the genie was already out the bottle and since 2002 the less threatening "climate change" has gathered unstoppable momentum, almost completely displacing the more apocalyptic "global warming" as the de facto description for the manmade increase in average temperatures.
Politicians, businesses and the media have all followed Luntz's recommendation to favour the softer term. While even some environmental lobby groups, many of which have a direct interest in ensuring people are genuinely concerned and even fearful of scientists' climate predictions, have co-opted the term "climate change" as a more palatable description for the crisis.
All of this has been much to the annoyance of some environmentalists who argue that the use of the term "climate change" creates an impression of mild discomfort or gradual shifts in temperature when the reality is likely to be far more devastating. Most notably Professor James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Theory, has recently argued that even the term "global warming" is too cosy and urged people to adopt the phrase "global heating" as the best means of highlighting the scale of the threat the earth now faces. Given the worst case predictions of 6 degree temperature rises this century "global heating" may indeed be more appropriate.
Far from being a dry debate on nomenclature the question of how to refer to what Al Gore calls a "planetary emergency" is one that businesses have to grapple with.
The safe option is to stick with the current consensus and rely on the term "climate change" when promoting any emission reduction initiative. But with this now the majority view firms keen to differentiate their green agendas and depict how serious they take the issue could do worse than consider a return to the more powerful "global warming".
A question of nomenclature may be a minor consideration when looking at all the other things a business has to put in place to undertake a successful carbon emissions reduction programme, but as Luntz has ably demonstrated throughout his career picking the right words can be critical success.
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