Now if we could only get them to stop using the "D" word, they might actually communicate better


Failure to communicate? Common words used through time used to describe the “crisis”. The current hot button word is “extreme weather”. Graphic by A. Watts

From the University of Missouri:

Public Acceptance of Climate Change Affected by Word Usage, Says MU Anthropologist

Better science communication could lead to a more informed American public.

Public acceptance of climate change’s reality may have been influenced by the rate at which words moved from scientific journals into the mainstream, according to anthropologist Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri. A recent study of word usage in popular literature by O’Brien and his colleagues documented how the usage of certain words related to climate change has risen and fallen over the past two centuries. Understanding how word usage affects public acceptance of science could lead to better science communication and a more informed public.

“Scientists can learn from this study that the general public shouldn’t be expected to understand technical terms or be convinced by journal papers written in technical jargon,” O’Brien said. “Journalists must explain scientific terms in ways people can understand and thereby ease the movement of those terms into general speech. That can be a slow process. Several words related to climate change diffused into the popular vocabulary over a 30-50 year timeline.”

O’Brien’s study found that, by 2008, several important terms in the discussion of climate change had entered popular literature from technical obscurity in the early 1900s. These terms included:

  • Biodiversity – the degree of variation in life forms within a given area
  • Holocene – the current era of the Earth’s history, which started at the end of the last ice age
  • Paleoclimate –the prehistoric climate, often deduced from ice cores, tree rings and pollen trapped in sediments
  • Phenology – the study of how climate and other environmental factors influence the timing of events in organisms’ life cycles

Not every term was adopted at the same rate or achieved the same degree of popularity. Biodiversity, for example, came into popular use quickly in only a few years in the late 80s and early 90s. Other terms, like Holocene or phenology, have taken decades and are still relatively uncommon.

“The adoption of words into the popular vocabulary is like the evolution of species,” O’Brien said. “A complex process governs why certain terms are successful and adopted into everyday speech, while others fail. For example, the term ‘meme’ has entered the vernacular, as opposed to the term ‘culturgen,’ although both refer to a discrete unit of culture, such as a saying transferred from person to person.”

To observe the movement of words into popular literature, O’Brien and his colleagues searched the database of 7 million books created by Google. They used the “Ngram” feature of the database to track the number of appearances of climate change keywords in literature since 1800. The usage rate of those climate change terms was compared to the usage of “the,” which is the most common word in the English language. Statistical analysis of usage rates was calculated in part by co-author William Brock, a new member of MU’s Department of Economics and member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, “Word Diffusion and Climate Science” was published in the journal PLOS ONE and can be viewed here (in full): Co-authors also included R. Alexander Bentley of the University of Bristol Phillip Garnett of Durham University.


EDITOR’S NOTE: A portion of O’Brien’s experiment can be repeated using any computer with internet access.

  1. 1. Go to
  2. 2. Enter terms such as “climate change,” “global warming,” or “anthropogenic” and note how they have changed in usage over the past century.

Story Contact(s):

Timothy Wall,


newest oldest most voted
Notify of



Polly want a cracker!

David L. Hagen

For some unexpected results, compare: wood, coal, nuclear, gas, renewable, solar, biomass

He should have added sustainable to that list.
Look what happened at Rio+20 sustainable meant different things to clowns in the UN Circus, it was actually meant to of course to obfuscate the real objectives. To some sustainable meant taking and replacing sensibly to others a de-industrialization and a return to Agrarian society


If they want to continue using the “den…” word, I suggest we fight back using the words CAGW “sympathiser.” It also has connotations.

Will Nelson

You keep using that word “informed”. I do not think it means what you think it means.


“Climate change” represents a rejection of rational thought. That is not exaggerating. It’s intended to imply that the effect is happening even though the posited mechanism– global warming– is not. It is magical thinking.

Chris @NJ_Snow_Fan

All the Government has to do is tell the truth that if we don’t’ t start using alternative energy sources, convert to more efficient vehicles, home and businesses heat/ cooling devices the economy will come to a stand still and collapse when oil shortages start in 10 years time. They also should be straight with the public that the Global Warming Plot is the governments way to tax the hard working Americans more to pay for their BS out of control spending. F mars and all the $$$ they are spending on projects like that. We have poor families on earth that need more help the trying to figure out if life was ever on mars. Anywhere in the universe where water is present or was present life is there or was.


“Understanding how word usage affects public acceptance of science could lead to better science communication and a more informed public.”
That’s a double edged sword.
It can also lead to ever more effective use of emotive terminology by propagandists.


Or AndyG55 if you really wanted to get ugly you could say “collaborator.”

Chris @NJ_Snow_Fan

One more thing if everyone changed over to an electric car the us highway system would collapse because they would not get any tax money from fuel sales to pay for repairs and maintain the highways and roads. They will tax people on electric cars by miles driven in the future in America.


I can live with either..
Use “collaborator” for the Karoly, Lewindowsky types etc
And use “sympathisers” for the following lemmings.

Darren Potter

“Understanding how word usage affects public acceptance of science could lead to better science communication and a more informed public.”
Global Warming SCAM speak for: How to better hoodwink the general public into accepting continued funding of more worthless GW studies, projects, and modeling.

Useful Idiot is probably the most appropriate term for most Warmists.

Bob Diaz

MARKETING: Selling Horse Droppings as an exciting new health food!!!
What they are talking about is how to better “market” their dogma.

Mike M

I think “Climate Hoax” is totally adequate at getting the point across to the public.

Bill Illis

How can we be called a denier when this is the situation.
Its the other way around.

How about Climate Hooey?

Rick Bradford

I’m waiting for that article headlined: “Why can we not communicate with Deniers?”
That would nicely sum up the self-absorption and lack of self-awareness of the ‘sympathisers’.

William Astley

The problem is not the words used to discuss the extreme AGW paradigm, the problem is observations and analysis in peer reviewed journals does not support the extreme AGW paradigm. The planet will warm less than 1C from a doubling of atmospheric CO2. There is no extreme AGW crisis to address.
The words uses to discuss facts does not change the facts (i.e. There is truth and there is analysis and research to find the truth.). Words can confuse the discussion and delay the realization of what is or is not correct. Words do not change what is or is not truth.
The fact that observations show global warming has stalled for 16 years and the ocean is now cooling provides support for the assertion that there is no extreme AGW crisis to address. The extreme AGW paradigm pushers are only now starting to acknowledge that the planet has not warmed in 16 years.
The second unaddressed issue, is what to do if there was an extreme AGW problem, which there is not.
Even if there was an extreme AGW problem the solution would not be to implement a scam. The “green” energy schemes that have been proposed and that are being funded are scams. A scam is economically and engineering not viable.
The opportunity for executing the scam exists as the extreme warming paradigm pushers have removed logic and responsibility from the discussion and there are always unscrupulous, honor-less people how will take advantage of a weakness.,9171,1725975,00.html
The Clean Energy Scam
But the basic problem with most biofuels is amazingly simple, given that researchers have ignored it until now: using land to grow fuel leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands that store enormous amounts of carbon…. …Backed by billions in investment capital, this alarming phenomenon is replicating itself around the world. Indonesia has bulldozed and burned so much wilderness to grow palm oil trees for biodiesel that its ranking among the world’s top carbon emitters has surged from 21st to third according to a report by Wetlands International. Malaysia is converting forests into palm oil farms so rapidly that it’s running out of uncultivated land. But most of the damage created by biofuels will be less direct and less obvious. In Brazil, for instance, only a tiny portion of the Amazon is being torn down to grow the sugarcane that fuels most Brazilian cars. More deforestation results from a chain reaction so vast it’s subtle: U.S. farmers are selling one-fifth of their corn to ethanol production, so U.S. soybean farmers are switching to corn, so Brazilian soybean farmers are expanding into cattle pastures, so Brazilian cattlemen are displaced to the Amazon. It’s the remorseless economics of commodities markets. “The price of soybeans goes up,” laments Sandro Menezes, a biologist with Conservation International in Brazil, “and the forest comes down.”
Deforestation accounts for 20% of all current carbon emissions. So unless the world can eliminate emissions from all other sources–cars, power plants, factories, even flatulent cows–it needs to reduce deforestation or risk an environmental catastrophe. That means limiting the expansion of agriculture, a daunting task as the world’s population keeps expanding. And saving forests is probably an impossibility so long as vast expanses of cropland are used to grow modest amounts of fuel. The biofuels boom, in short, is one that could haunt the planet for generations–and it’s only getting started.
Biofuel production ‘a crime against humanity’
It is now six months since I reported on what even environmentalists are calling “the biggest environmental scandal in history”. Indeed this is a scam so glaringly bizarre that even the UN and the EU have belatedly announced that they are thinking of taking steps to stop it. The essence of the scam is that a handful of Chinese and Indian firms are deliberately producing large quantities of an incredibly powerful “greenhouse gas” which we in the West – including UK taxpayers – then pay them billions of dollars to destroy.
The extreme AGW issue is a mania, the madness of crowds.
“The problem for global warming supporters is they actually need for past warming from CO2 to be higher than 0.7C. If the IPCC is correct that based on their high-feedback models we should expect to see 3C of warming per doubling of CO2, looking backwards this means we should already have seen about 1.5C of CO2-driven warming based on past CO2 increases. But no matter how uncertain our measurements, it’s clear we have seen nothing like this kind of temperature rise. Past warming has in fact been more consistent with low or even negative feedback assumptions.”

R. Shearer

In science, theory and terms around theory become more precise as knowledge is gained. With regard to AGW, that is not the case. Is has become “climate change” then “climate disruption” actually losing precision in the process. That is how we know that the theory is not very good in the first place.
That said, I don’t think “Hoax” is correct.


The powers that be are all “awareness raisers” who used to be called “propogandists”.
From the EPA’s Klimate Kids guide for elementary school teachers glossary:
” Carbon dioxide: A colorless, odorless greenhouse gas. It is produced naturally when dead animals (think puppies or polar bears) or plants decay..”
Suzuki “the dirty blood is pumped to the lungs to have the carbon removed”
Climate writers style sheet: “Avoid using “positive feedback” rather “exagerates dangerous effects”.

R. Shearer

I think “Fraud” certainly applies to much of it.

Gary Pearse

It doesn’t help that an anthropologist just simply assumes that the science is correct. Why do these loons think that finding other ways to communicate would convince the general public. The majority of the public a dozen years ago used to accept global warming before all this recent agonizing over proper communications. They have fallen away in droves. The clear problem to even a laymen anthropologist is: A) the behaviour and dirty tricks that came to light with climategate and more recent revelations of dishonesty and fiddling. B) the changing of goal posts and the spouting of nonsense about cold and snow is due to global warming C) the failure of all the forecasts of doom that were already to be upon us and D) the weather itself – 16 years of no statistically significant warming; no acceleration in sea level rise, a bitter cold Canada, Europe and Asia at present, etc.

Pamela Gray

I wonder what the data would show for “nuts”?

Interesting to compare the tragectories of the words “nature” verses “environment.” Nature has fallen out of fashion and “environment” is replacing it. Not a good sign.

John Bell

They, the faithful, act so miffed that everyone is not riding bicycles instead of driving cars, roughing it instead of heating their homes, living in the dark instead of using electricity, they are so baffled that the people have not taken up their pet cause and sacrificed in order to save the climate! Yet they are not willing to give up luxuries, let us see them go without, let us see their example first.

I can see the boffins want to keep that amorphous body called the public informed using the mushroom model: keep ’em in the dark and feed ’em s**t.


Darnit, they got me on “culturgen” !
Brings back memories 🙂


Climate Disguster’s with a large dose of corruptness!!!!!


‘denier’ is nowhere near as far as they can go, though.
when they say ‘climate molester’, run for the hills.

Pat Frank

Chris@NJ, look at the first Table at the EIR essay on oil production and reserves here. Between 1971 and 2007, global demand for oil increased by 1.7x, while proven reserves increased by 2.5x. Chart 3 shows the gigantic volume of recoverable oil from shale, just in the US. It seems clear we’ll never run out of oil. Not in 10 years, not in 100 years (when we’ll almost certainly be generating most of our power using some sort of fission or fusion).


“Public acceptance of climate change’s reality may have been influenced by the rate at which words moved from scientific journals into the mainstream….”
Nah, the reality of climate change has been in dispute only because of things like mainstream Climate Scientists’ own propaganda – trying to change the meaning of “climate change” to mean that “the climate doesn’t change unless the cause is human-produced CO2” – and the 100% failure rate of their predictions about their newly minted “climate change”.

john robertson

What about the words,raw data, honesty, integrity, documentation, replication,observation,measurement, false precision,extraordinary claims,evidence and scientific method?
And the most important words?? Defund useless anthropologists.


“Scientists can learn from this study that the general public shouldn’t be expected to understand technical terms or be convinced by journal papers written in technical jargon,” O’Brien said. “Journalists must explain scientific terms in ways people can understand and thereby ease the movement of those terms into general speech.
Well that won’t happen unless we have a whole whack of journalists who actually understand the science (else they wouldn’t be able to explain it). Of course if they did understand it, they’d be forced either to lie to maintain the culturgen or else explain that the culturgen is a lie….

IMHO that they continue to use the “denier” term is repulsive, and show their despicable character. My Real Science comment:
Members of the Chicken Little Brigade, like Schmidt and Mann et al, are little more than professional bullshitters, paid by govt dole.
My liberal warmist brother, a biochemist, has said that there is nothing wrong with the political objectives of the scare mongers. So, my brother explicitly agrees with ex-Senator Tim Wirth who said: “We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing.” Moreover, when I suggested that, with there being two scientific camps on AGW, and with the issue unresolved, it would up to the people to decide the issue, he scoffed, implying that the people are too stupid, and saying that it would be best if society was “run by the top 5%, or even 1%” [of scientific or other technocrats]. Amazing. We can assume he would be counting on that 1% totally agreeing with him. The main thing about my warmist brother is that he discounts the contrary evidence. I think he fully subscribes to the idea that the de-industrialization goal of the warmists is good, and that the “science” could just as well be a propaganda veneer, and he is prepared to be a foot soldier in furthering that propaganda. They key point that my brother has not been able to dispute is that there is no causal correlation between CO2 & temperatures, as pointed out in this must see and share 3 minute video:
Recently my brother was attempting to mock me for not believing in global warming. Now I had to stand up for myself in just a few words because it was a quick passing conversation. So, and I had previously showed him the video I link to above (he had no rebuttal), so anyway I say “I don’t know how you continue to push global warming when there is no evidence of a causal correlation between CO2 & temperature. ” My brother just kind of nods his head, he can’t rebut my point. So I think if we have to be extremely to the point, let every other point in the AGW debate go, and concentrate solely on the key point that there is no causal correlation between CO2 & temperature. And, the point about CO2 is contrary to the earlier (and now retracted) IPCC claims. The theory was built fully on this posited causal correlation. But that correlation, as in my linked video, is shown to be non-causal.
NON-causal. Do you know what that means?
Temperature drives CO2, CO2 does not drive temperature. Another point, if temperature drives CO2 (not disputed now by the doomsayers) and CO2 drives temperatures, it would be a self-reinforcing loop and we would have long ago entered a runaway greenhouse scenario where the oceans would have boiled away. That hasn’t happened.

Climate Ace

Pamela Gray says:
January 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm
I wonder what the data would show for “nuts”?

For ‘nuts’ there are two peaks: around WW1 and WW2.
‘Pamela Gray’ hit a notable peak in the early TwentyOughties.

Theo Goodwin

If you do not read a daily newspaper published in London, you should. Even better, read British blogs such as which is owned by Andrew Montford. Especially read the comments. Their language contains the salt and vinegar that Americans lost sometime over the last fifty years. Read James Delingpole at
Why do I bring this up? Well, without the salt and vinegar of days gone by, American english gives us scarce resources for responding in kind to “denier.” Why did American lose their salt and vinegar? Political correctness. Respect is required, you know. Very un-American actually.

Theo Goodwin

davidmhoffer says:
January 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm
Right on the money and incontrovertible.

The study misses the main point – language changes much more by changed meaning of existing words than by introduction of new words or by existing words being used more with their existing meaning. Some obvious examples are “gay”, “cool” and “like”. “Climate” used to represent the general mix of weather features (temperature, wind, humidity, precipitation etc) over long periods (eg. a lifetime plus) in a region, and were often identified by a representative region. So climates were arctic, siberian, arid, temperate, mediterranean, sub-tropical, tropical, etc. Now “climate” is most often used to mean global temperature. “Climate change” used to mean changes in climate, now it means man-made global warming. Looking at how often words like “biodiversity” or “holocene” are used is just playing around the edges.

Climate Ace


Jim Clarke

Better communication by scientists would quickly put an end to this AGW nonsense. If the general public really understood the science, they would not allow another penny to be spent on another useless climate change model. The head of the IPCC would have to do his best Emily Litella…”Never-mind.”


Pamela Gray says: January 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm
I wonder what the data would show for “nuts”?
I’ll take what We the People say to those demanding our surrender for $1000, Alex!
Also an acceptable answer to the main question, “What is a Quisling” for our so called leaders.


Climate Ace;
Naturally, the BAU boosters who value our current way of doing things, and the current distribution of resources,
It remains beyond the grasp of some that BAU is all about changing the current distribution of resources, not maintaining it.


Climate crazies?


This Climategate email is a reminder of the kind of dishonest hostility, ranting, and obfuscation that has characterized so much ‘team’ science communication:

I love these strategy threads. Semantics are fun!

Climate Ace

davidmhoffer says:
January 22, 2013 at 8:43 pm
Climate Ace;
Naturally, the BAU boosters who value our current way of doing things, and the current distribution of resources,
It remains beyond the grasp of some that BAU is all about changing the current distribution of resources, not maintaining it.

I was trying to be even-handed and polite and now you have gone and ruined it all.
The distribution of wealth in the US in recent years, for example, has resulted in an ever greater disparity between the top one percent and the bottom twenty per cent. So, I am agreeing with your point completely. While we are talking about predictions, I believe that that particular wealth gap will grow.
That huge and growing wealth disparity is BAU. It is neither necessarily wrong nor evil in and of itself. It is just descriptive of what has happened before, during and after the GFC.
In particular, the US middle class appears to be under some sort of threat. Being a boring old middle classer myself, and being acutely conscious of the role of the middle class in helping stabilize political systems through history, it does worry me a tad that the US middle class is apparently in some strife.
Were I a middle classer in the US I would be very, very angry at what has been going on there for the last 15 years or so. Fortunately, I am in Australia where our middle class has been bolstered by a huge influx of tradies and mining industry workers.
As they say around here, the tradies get the ladies.


@Pat Frank
Proved Reserves means reserves reasonably certain of recorvery with the technology and prices of the time in question. The world will never run out of oil, but that does not mean that supply will always be sufficient to meet demand at desirable prices. The issue is capacity for production. Without confusing the issue with natural gas liquids, which are not transportation fuel, world crude production has been stuck near 74 million barrels per day for 7 years, despite a tripling of prices. Don’t expect sympathy if you do something stupid like buy a real gas guzzler to enjoy all that new tight formations crude oil coming into the U.S. market.


From the report;
“Better science communication could lead to a more informed American public.”
Well, I’m quite well “informed” and I can smell “BS” from quite a distance away.
You can still make a very good living as an engineer here in the USA with a finely tuned “BS” detector. They are worth at least 6 figures in most markets.
Cheers, Kevin.