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2.5 Concluding Thoughts

Throughout this book, most of the discussion surrounding communication and sustainability focuses on public, interpersonal and group communication. In this chapter, the discussion focuses on paradigms and Discourses. It is through discourse that ideas are developed, spread, and changed. “How we 'talk' about and represent the natural environment have serious ramifications for how we will conceptualize and enact our future relationship with it” (Prasad and Elmes 2005, p. 853). Each Discourse focuses us on different aspects related to how humanity will view and respond to global warming challenges. “Language matters... the way we construct, interpret, discuss, and analyze environmental problems has all kinds of consequences” (Dryzek 2005, p. 10). Climate change sounds like part of the natural cycle, while global warming has connotations that it is the outcome of human action. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2014), 97 % of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends very likely are due to human activities, and worldwide the leading scientific organizations have issued public statements to that effect. Yet people in the USA feel more comfortable discussing climate change than global warming. Why? In 2002 Frank Luntz, a Republican political strategist, recommended Republican politicians promote the term climate change. Based on his focus group data, the general public finds it less frightening than the term global warming (see Luntz Memorandum 2002). Subsequently, Republican congressional and executive leaders increasingly used the term climate change, and the media and general public followed suit. Today political affiliation is one of the strongest correlates with individual uncertainty about climate change, not scientific knowledge (McCright and Dunlap 2011). So, Discourse, ideology, and language do matter. They shape awareness, understanding, beliefs, attitudes, and action.

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