The New York Times today leaked an environmentalist strategy memo suggesting modifying the watermelon (green on the outside, pink on the inside) left’s message in order to fool the American public.
The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is â€œglobal warming.â€
The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.
Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about â€œour deteriorating atmosphere.â€ Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up â€œmoving away from the dirty fuels of the past.â€ Donâ€™t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like â€œcap and cash backâ€ or â€œpollution reduction refund.â€
Environmental issues consistently rate near the bottom of public worry, according to many public opinion polls. A Pew Research Center poll released in January found global warming last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. â€œWe know why itâ€™s lowest,â€ said Mr. Perkowitz, a marketer of outdoor clothing and home furnishings before he started ecoAmerica, whose activities are financed by corporations, foundations and individuals. â€œWhen someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say â€˜global warming,â€™ a certain group of Americans think thatâ€™s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.â€
The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing, is to reframe the issue using different language. â€œEnergy efficiencyâ€ makes people think of shivering in the dark. Instead, it is more effective to speak of â€œsaving money for a more prosperous future.â€ In fact, the groupâ€™s surveys and focus groups found, it is time to drop the term â€œthe environmentâ€ and talk about â€œthe air we breathe, the water our children drink.â€
â€œAnother key finding: remember to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technology,â€ said the e-mail account of the groupâ€™s study….
Frank Luntz, a Republican communications consultant, prepared a strikingly similar memorandum in 2002, telling his clients that they were losing the environmental debate and advising them to adjust their language. He suggested referring to themselves as â€œconservationistsâ€ rather than â€œenvironmentalists,â€ and emphasizing â€œcommon senseâ€ over scientific argument.
And, Mr. Luntz and Mr. Perkowitz agree, â€œclimate changeâ€ is an easier sell than â€œglobal warming.â€