Links for April 11, 2006: global warming’s brand equity

  • Xtreme weather: We got a chuckle out of Grist’s April Fool’s joke about rebranding global warming.

  • But uber-marketer Seth Godin isn’t laughing. He thinks global warming is far too cute a name for “greatest threat ever to the future of mankind.”

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  1. John Fish Kurmann - April 12, 2006

    I very much agree that the language we use is vitally important, and neither “global warming” nor “climate change,” both scientific terms, have proved very useful in motivating the necessary actions so far.
    “Global warming” suffers from the faults Godin describes in his post plus at least one more: People who know very little about the science tend to take the term “global warming” to mean that scientists are asserting the world will just get progressively warmer and dryer in a uniform and linear way, each season of the year being warmer and dryer than the previous year’s. This, of course, is not what the models predict at all, and not what is happening, either. Consequently, every cold snap and heavy winter storm brings out the peanut gallery saying “So much for global warming!”
    “Climate change” is far too mild to convey the scope of the effects we face, and it’s also hampered by the fact that most people in the industrialized world generally assume “change is good.” Given how dissatisfying the industrialized way of life is, I think it’s no wonder people look forward to change, so we need to be well aware of that strong bias.
    As an alternative to both terms, I offer “climate disruption due to global warming,” and simply “climate disruption” for short. I have only seen this term used (by anyone other than me) once or twice as far as I can recall. The advantages I think it offers are:
    1. It more effectively conveys the scope of the problem, “disruption” being a stronger descriptor than “change.” And no one likes their life or their plans to be disrupted, do they? Disruption definitely carries unpleasant connotations.
    2. It puts the focus on the effects we are feeling, and will feel, rather than the atmospheric change that is producing the effect, the way global warming does. And the effects are what we need to bring home to people.
    2. “Climate disruption” could be used comfortably by both advocates for action and the scientific community. I think other proposed alternatives, such as “climate chaos” and “climate crisis,” are too strong to be adopted by the scientific community because they connote a certainty about the scale of future effects that scientists are likely to be uncomfortable with for the most part. It generally goes against their training to make statements that “go beyond the evidence.” But we–and scientists–can safely and honestly say, based solely on the evidence, that we are already experiencing climate disruption, and we can expect to experience larger-scale disruptions in the future based on computer models. And we advocates could still use terms like “chaos” and “crisis” in our work, because those are real risks if greenhouse gases continue to increase, but not as direct substitutes for “global warming” and “climate change.”
    Your comments are welcome both here and at

  2. Brooke - May 1, 2006

    How about “Climate Damage?”

  3. Xenoar - May 6, 2006

    We know we run in a catastrophe, a lot of talking, nothing happens and we are not able to stop this development. 150 years of industrial exploitation will affect next thousand years. This is a fact and I do not want to life in the next century.