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Surprising Science

Does “Population Die-Off” Need To Be Retooled?

One would think humans would have a notion of preservation lofty enough not to get too bogged down in the semantics of the climate debate, but such is not the case.

Cap and trade, polar melting, mega-storms, sea level rise, feedback loops, population die-off.

The language of climate change is strong stuff, so strong that it seems the best work of the Al Gore camp is all for naught unless the communications experts are brought in.

This is the new mandate for green interests seeking to underscore the urgency of the climate change issue–even though the idea of marketing the climate message makes many traditional environmentalists recoil.

The new intersection of communications and global warming inspired Seed Magazine to ask a panel of scientists how much the language of safeguarding the planet–or, if you are of another frame of mind, averting biospheric disaster–really matters.

Most of them came down on the side of the public relations people who have successfully trumpeted the environmental cause. Though the future may indeed be dire, the eco-fundamentalists have proven ill-equipped to convey the climate message compared to the veteran spin masters.

American Univeristy professor of Communications Matthew Nisbet broke down the alchemy of the message.

“The point is not to “sell” the public on climate change, but rather to use research on framing to create communication contexts that move beyond polarization, promote discussion, generate partnerships and connections, and that accurately convey the objective urgency of the problem.”

When he spoke with Big Think, Nisbet explained how conservatives have courted PR folks in the past to downplay the climate issue as harmful to business and the economy. He noted one of the most persuasive efforts in environmental spin has been the unlikely teamwork of the ecologists and Christians.


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