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Global Warming vs Climate Change: What Scares You More?

May 28, 2014 11:17 AM EDT
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Many Americans still do not think of "climate change" and "global warning" as synonymous phrases, according to a recent analysis of survey results.

The results were detailed in a report released by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies titled "What's In A Name? Global Warming vs Climate Change."

According to the report, despite the fact that the scientific community prefers to use the term "climate change" for technical reasons, the term "global warming" still earns stronger public reaction and understanding, especially among older male demographics.

Two national surveys were commissioned to determine the most recent opinions of these terms. One of the surveys, conducted in January, was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,021 adults. The other, conducted in November and December 2013, boasted a representative sample of 1,657 adults.

According to the January survey, most Americans are equally familiar with the terms "global warming" and "climate change." However, interpretations of these terms may differ. Additionally, the survey revealed that 45 percent reported hearing people say "global warming" more often, compared with 12 percent who said they heard "climate change" more. Sixty-two and 63 percent of participants reported believing that "climate change" or "global warming" is happening respectively.

Each of these surveys also included a wide variety of demographics, revealing data that could be invaluable to politicians and scientists alike.

Analysis of responses from both surveys revealed that older generations, especially among men, were 21 percent more likely to believe that "global warming" is happening, compared to "climate change." Minorities are also more likely to view the two terms differently, with African Americans and Hispanics 20 to 30 percent more likely to view "global warming" as a "very bad thing," compared to "climate change."

Unsurprisingly, Republicans were most likely to be equally skeptical of both terms. However, the use of "global warming" earned more concern for family safety among some Republicans, compared to "climate change."

According to the researchers, eventually the two phrases might become synonymous, as media and scientific communities are learning to use both.

"In the meantime, however, the results of these studies strongly suggest that the two terms continue to mean different things to many Americans," the researchers concluded.

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