Language Choice Shapes Public Opinion

-By Emme Luck, ‘18C, Environmental  Sciences, and Leotie Hakkila, ‘19C, Environmental Sciences

The public discourse on climate change is everywhere – blogs, newspapers, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, magazines, online journals. It’s impossible to avoid, which is a good thing, because it is a time-sensitive issue that threatens the livelihood of the global population. But we don’t usually notice the language used when we read these headlines, hear classmates arguing about it, or see Tweets on our feeds is the language.  that people are using. The way that people express themselves can be almost as powerful as their meaning. 

Certainty language is essentially how confident one’s language is, as perceived by the reader. This is significant when talking about issues such as climate change because scientists tend to show weaker language than climate change deniers. This matters to climate science because it influences public opinion on climate change. People need to be convinced that climate change is real and that the related storms, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, coral bleaching, agricultural impact affect them. Otherwise, no one will change their actions, big fossil fuel companies will continue on their destructive trajectory, grants for scientific research won’t be approved, and we will lose the opportunity to mitigate global climate change.