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Saying "Climate Change" Instead Of "Global Warming" Isn't A Liberal Plot

Ted Cruz, a US presidential candidate, thinks it's an attempt to hide the "warming pause". But it was a Republican adviser who really pushed for the change.

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The US Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had some things to say about global warming recently.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The senator for Texas complained that people had stopped talking about "global warming" and started saying "climate change".

He said: "You remember how it used to be called 'global warming' and then magically the theory changed to 'climate change'? The reason is it wasn't warming, but the computer models still say it is, except the satellites show it's not."

New entry: global warming can be used interchangeably with climate change. Climate change is more accurate scientifically. #aces2015

By coincidence, today the AP Stylebook has indeed declared that "climate change" and "global warming" are interchangeable terms.

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Let's leave aside the question of whether the world is warming for a moment.

Cruz is relying on one data set from one set of years – satellites over 17 years (18 or 16 would tell a different story) – while ignoring data from the oceans and the atmosphere. But that's a bigger question.

Cruz might be surprised to learn that one of the main people who pushed for a change from the term "global warming" to "climate change" was a Republican adviser, Frank Luntz.

Luntz was an adviser to the George W. Bush administration. In 2003 he wrote a memo, which was leaked to The Guardian, saying that the "scientific debate is closing [against the Republicans] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science," and that:

Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.

One of the suggestions Luntz made was to move away from "frightening" terms such as "global warming" and use more neutral ones such as "climate change" instead.

Dennisvdw / Getty Images

Luntz believed that the climate "is probably the single issue on which Republicans in general – and President Bush in particular – are most vulnerable" and that "many Americans believe Republicans do not care about the environment".

Research suggests that people are more likely to be alarmed by the term "global warming", and more likely to want to do something about it.

A Yale University study last year found that "the term 'global warming' is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement, and support for personal and national action than the term 'climate change'."

So Ted Cruz can rest easy. The use of the term "climate change" isn't a liberal plot to pull the wool over people's eyes.

But it was once a plot by his own party to do the exact same thing.

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