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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new paper finds that words used in news stories to label climate change are less consequential than whether stories emphasize harm or solutions.

Driving the news: Researchers tested engagement with "climate crisis" and "climate emergency" — phrasing that has gained media traction — and "climate change."

  • They also showed survey participants stories focused on impacts (such as wildfires), solutions (such as U.S. states' climate plans), and a mixed set.

How it works: The survey involved tweets of stories under the Associated Press handle but actually from multiple outlets, and showed a headline, image and story lead.

What they found: Climate phrasing doesn't really move the needle, Rutgers and University of Michigan researchers found in the peer-reviewed study in Climatic Change.

  • "[T]erminology did not have any effect on public engagement with climate change, measured in terms of fear, hope, collective efficacy beliefs, policy support, and intended political action."
  • And to a small degree, the "emergency" frame "reduced perceived news credibility and perceived newsworthiness."

Yes, but: Long-term exposure to "emergency" and "crisis" framing may build support for action — or could bring "disengagement" among some audiences. The survey did not measure long-term impacts, and future research is needed, they write.

  • Turning to story content, "news about climate impacts decreased hope and efficacy beliefs, and increased fear, compared to news about climate actions."

The bottom line: The results "emphasize the importance of focusing on actions and efficacy information in news coverage of climate change, either alone or in combination with impacts, regardless of the terminology used."

Go deeper

The most startling facts in 2021 climate report

An unsettling part of the human condition today is that the year you were born will most likely be the coolest year of your life, globally speaking.

By the numbers: Newly released climate data from NOAA, NASA and Berkeley Earth show that the planet has had an unbroken streak of 45 years of warmer than average temperatures.

In photos: 2021's devastating climate disasters

Firefighters work on a wildfire in the Sequoia National Forest near Johnsondale, Calif., in September 2021. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Climate disasters in 2021 affected millions of lives, caused billions of dollars in economic loss across the world and brought into stark reality the perils of higher temperatures and climate change in general.

The big picture: Early data has ranked 2021 as the sixth warmest year on record. Climatologists have warned that increased surface temperatures make floods, droughts, heat and cold waves, wildfires and tropical storms and hurricanes more common and intense.

Biden names Sarah Bloom Raskin as Fed's top banking regulator

Sarah Bloom Raskin during a Fed meeting in 2013. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will nominate Sarah Bloom Raskin as the Federal Reserve's top Wall Street cop, a Biden administration official said, one of three nominees being unveiled for the critical open seats on the central bank's board of governors.

Why it matters: It's Biden's biggest mark yet on the influential economic body that's center stage as the country grapples with inflation rising at the fastest pace in decades and a recovering labor market.