The Effect of Climate Change Semantic Expressions on Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Decarbonisation

  •  Hussein Akil    
  •  Philippe Robert-Demontrond    
  •  Julien Bouillé    
  •  Said Hussein    
  •  Leila Zein    


This paper is proposed to clarify the effectiveness of semantic expressions used to designate climate change in France context, i.e. “réchauffement climatique” (“global warming”); “changement climatique” (“climate change”); and “derangement climatique” (“climate imbalance”). An experimental study (sample size N = 126) based on ‘linguistic semantics’ approach is conducted in order to assess the effect of these expressions on concerns, perceptions risk and sensitivity regarding Climate Change (CC). Our results show that the expression “réchauffement climatique” (“global warming”) is the most appropriate from a statistical standpoint. It increased the importance of the problem (salience of this issue) relative to other societal issues (e.g. unemployment, social justice, crime, etc.); it also enhanced participants' sensitivity (respondents' emotions associated with CC) more than the other expressions. We can still note however a strong difference in impact among the expressions if we were to calculate their impact on the basis of risk perception and communication objective. Results showed that when focusing our communication campaigns on nature, it would be preferable to use the term “changement” ("change"), when focusing our communication on social level, it would be preferable to use the term “réchauffement” ("warming"), whereas the term “dérèglement” ("imbalance") becomes the most suitable in seeking to build a communication campaign focusing on economic aspects. Semantics therefore should be selected depending on the communication objective.

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