Labels such as “sceptic” “denier” and “alarmist” confuse the climate change debate.
New research suggests scientists and academics need to pay more attention to how they use labels and their choice of language in order to have a “constructive” debate.
Co-author and Senior Research Fellow Candice Howarth from Anglia Ruskin University told ELN: “The labels produce the perception the debate is polarised. You don’t get labels that are in middle of the spectrum or people who don’t engage in the debate.”
Some labels within the debate appear to express disapproval and are associated with “crying wolf” or exaggerating danger, the paper claims.
They identify people at extreme sides of the argument and although there are different views and opinions on the topic, the “polarised” labels could frame the argument as “antagonistic and combative,” it added.
This could lead to people ignoring other views and dividing opinions into “us and them” sides, the journal ‘Labelling opinions in the climate debate: a critical review’ said.
Asked if they would affect the public’s perception of climate change, Dr Howarth said: “They can translate into the [public] domain. It can act to confuse the public’s perception of the debate.”
Dr Howarth said the definition of a climate change “sceptic” has changed adding: “Being sceptical is a part of being a scientist. It implies seeking the truth but now the debate around a climate change sceptic implies it is someone who believes climate change is exaggerated.
“The labels have been misused. It would confuse people about what the debate is about.”