May 17, 2019

With climate change, words matter

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

New research out this week on climate-change polling and an interview with a Republican lawmaker have underscored the importance of words when it comes to such a complicated and divisive topic.

What they found: Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center say the proportion of Americans who think climate change is driven by human activity ranges from 50%–71%, all simply based on how you ask the question.

Meanwhile: Rep. Tom Reed says the key to engaging his fellow Republicans on climate change is to use less divisive — and at times less specific — language.

Why it matters: While unconnected, these two bits of news show that words have an outsized impact in influencing people’s understanding of the issue and their willingness to engage on it.

Details: The research found questions that don’t allow a "I don’t know" answer could inflate the level of acceptance, forcing people to pick an option that may not represent their positions.

  • Questions that ask respondents whether they agree with a statement may also inflate acceptance levels because people may feel compelled to agree — even if they don’t.

What we’re hearing:

"There’s this whole debate of human contribution, and we spend hours — or even the precious minutes members [of Congress] have with each other — talking about that as opposed to: Can we agree that the weather is changing, the climate is changing, and can we agree we should use smart policies to promote resiliency?"
— Rep. Tom Reed

Go deeper: An energy and climate glossary for Trump (and everyone)

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll passes 9,600

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 9,600 in the U.S. Sunday night, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday this upcoming week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 p.m. ET: 1,273,990 — Total deaths: 69,444 — Total recoveries: 260,247Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10:30 p.m. ET: 337,310 — Total deaths: 9,634 — Total recoveries: 17,461Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Surgeon general says this week will be "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment." The USDA confirms that a Bronx zoo tiger tested positive for coronavirus.
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. Biden says DNC may have to hold virtual convention.
  5. States updates: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is "literally going day-to-day" with supplies.
  6. World update: Queen Elizabeth II urges the British people to confront pandemic with "self-discipline" and "resolve" in rare televised address.
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Intelligence community watchdog suggests Trump fired him for doing his job

Michael Atkinson, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community,at the Capitol in October. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson suggested in a statement Sunday President Trump fired him for acting impartially in carrying out his duties following a whistleblower complaint.

Why it matters: Atkinson alerted Congress last September to the complaint on Trump's correspondence with Ukraine's president, triggering an inquiry that resulted in the Trump's impeachment.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy