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How we talk about climate change has a lot to do with how we feel about it, and what we’re willing to do to act on it. Recent research from the US found that the terms “global warming” and “climate change” evoke different reactions: global warming is perceived as far more threatening.
While there is no similar research in Australia, over the past 25 years we’ve seen debate shift from the greenhouse effect to climate change to climate variability — with a corresponding decrease in action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Global warming, the US research found, is more likely to be associated with melting glaciers, world catastrophe, flooding and extreme weather than climate change. It is also perceived to be scientifically more certain.
Climate change, on the other hand, is perceived as less threatening, particularly among liberal and moderate voters in the US. Conservative voters on average don’t distinguish between the two, but, to some, global warming is perceived as the greater threat.