People Don't Care about Global Warming or the Environment
The New York Times reports:
The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.”
The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling
The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing, is to reframe the issue using different language. ... In fact, the group’s surveys and focus groups found, it is time to drop the term “the environment” and talk about “the air we breathe, the water our children drink.”
The article implies that the ideas are fine but the words are not fine, and that new words should be used to relabel the same ideas - that the old wine should be sold in a new bottle. I think that's wrong as a true diagnosis though the suggested cure may work as a temporary palliative. People are not rejecting the words. They are rejecting the ideas.
Language does, of course, affect people's perceptions. Call a bill a "stimulus bill" and that will tend to make people think it is a stimulus bill. But the size of that effect depends on ignorance, and over time ignorance fades. Call enough wasteful legislation "stimulus", and over time the word will acquire a bad aroma. The fix - a temporary fix - is to find a new word, one which has not built up valid associations from long experience and therefore one which wipes the slate clean and pulls the wool back over people's eyes.
The terms "global warming" and "the environment" used to be fine and are fine, by themselves. What made the terms become radioactive was the ideas behind them. The words "global warming" call to mind economic sacrifice because that's what activists have been demanding. If they switch to new words, they may buy themselves a few years by the temporary confusion caused in people's minds, but eventually - if the activists don't stop demanding economic sacrifice - people will realize that the new words mean the same thing as the old words, the new words will become radioactive, and activists will have to find even newer words. Changing the words is a short-term fix. The long-term fix is changing the ideas behind the words.
A short term fix, of course, may confuse people for long enough to ram through the legislation that the activists want.