Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

President Trump’s recent comments on energy and climate change have been, well, imprecise. Here’s a handy glossary to make sure everyone’s got their semantics straight.

Why it matters: Because words matter! Especially sloppy ones in an amped-up media landscape where many don’t look past headlines. It’s important to get this stuff right when extreme voices are louder than ever and the president openly doubts mainstream science.

Global warming and climate change

“It used to be global warming,” Trump said in a recent interview with Piers Morgan. “That wasn’t working too well, because it was getting too cold all over the place.”

To be clear, he got his facts wrong, but let’s unpack what he meant by his words.

The Washington Post has a nice explanation of the evolution from global warming to climate change to what we have today: a mix of the two. Trump is right that the terms have evolved, but not because of the reasons he cited.

  1. GOP polling in 2002 said climate change was preferred over global warming to illustrate a less scary phenomenon.
  2. In 2005, the National Academies of Science issued a memo suggesting climate change was growing in preference because “it helps convey that there are changes in addition to rising temperatures.”

The terms cut both ways, climate scientists say.

“The argument that global warming is a bad term because sometimes the weather isn’t warm, that’s fine,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, a climate scientist and communicator at Yale University. “But it’s also true that when you use the term climate change, the deniers can come back and say the climate has always changed.” Trump did that in a tweet during a December cold snap.

My preference is to use climate change — and always make clear that human activity is driving it.

Believing in climate change

Climate change isn’t a religion, or anything else people choose to believe or not believe. It’s a science backed up by data and evidence. A better word: acknowledge.

Climate denier and climate skeptic

These two terms are used, largely by climate activists but some news outlets too, to describe people who question or reject mainstream climate science.

People labeled deniers claim they’re being wrongly lumped in with people who deny the Holocaust happened. Climate change is not in the same category as the Holocaust, and bringing that into this debate is unhelpful to say the least.

A better way: avoid personifying labels. It takes a few more words, but it’s more accurate and less polarizing. Here's what I say about President Trump and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt: They don’t publicly acknowledge the mainstream scientific consensus that human activity is driving the Earth’s aggregate temperature up.

Alternative energy vs. conventional energy

Alternative energy is a term generally known to represent any energy that’s not fossil fuels: oil, natural gas or coal. Conventional energy is considered fossil fuels. Those two words — alternative and conventional — reinforce stereotypes by implying one is always the alternative to the conventional.

A better way: Say renewable instead of alternative (or specify precisely what type of energy), and say fossil fuels instead of conventional.

Clean energy, green energy

Is it just renewables, like wind, solar and hydropower? Is it energy that doesn’t emit carbon emissions? Is it everything but coal, like this Washington lobbying coalition described it? The term is ambiguous and politically expedient. A better way: Specify the energy type.

Coal vs. clean coal

“We have ended the war on beautiful clean coal,” Trump said at his State of the Union last week. That’s not true from a factual standpoint, but his words are also misleading. Coal, historically the world’s dominant and cheapest source of electricity, is a fossil fuel that emits the most traditional air pollutants, like nitrogen oxide, and carbon emissions.

Clean coal is a term some use as shorthand to describe technology that allows facilities to capture and store carbon at facilities like a coal plant instead of emitting it into the air. But Trump never talks about that technology. Instead, he appears to use “clean coal” to describe plain coal, which is wrong and disingenuous.

Fracking, hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial technique that’s often paired with horizontal drilling, to extract vast reserves of oil and natural gas from deep rock formations in places like North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

The media, myself included sometimes, environmentalists and others have used the word fracking to encompass the entire extraction process. It is the catchiest word, but fracking is just one part.

Windmills vs. wind turbines

The former is often a term critics of wind energy, including Trump, use to paint an inaccurate image in people’s minds. Wind turbines that generate electricity are huge and don’t look anything like an image that possibly popped into your mind: windmills in the Netherlands.

To be clear, my assessment here contradicts the dictionary, which does say windmills can generate power. We shouldn’t look to Merriam-Webster for the most accurate energy lingo.

What did I miss? This isn’t comprehensive. I started with these terms because of their timeliness. Email me at amy@axios.com for more ideas for another installment someday sooner or later.

Go deeper

14 mins ago - Health

Biden voices support for private sector vaccine requirements

Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden said Tuesday that he supports efforts by private businesses to require coronavirus vaccines.

Driving the news: Biden's comments come hours after New York City announced it would demand proof of vaccination for indoor activities, including trips to gyms and restaurants.

Biden calls on Cuomo to resign after sexual harassment findings

Cuomo with Biden and Sen. Chuck Schumer in September 2020. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign on Tuesday after an independent investigation found that Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including employees in his office, in violation of state and federal law.

Why it matters: Unlike dozens of other prominent Democrats, Biden held off on calling for Cuomo's resignation in March when the allegations of sexual misconduct first emerged.

Biden expected to announce new eviction ban

President Biden. Photo: Bloomberg / Contributor

President Biden is expected to reveal a new, more "targeted" ban on evictions, three sources familiar with the matter confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: The Biden administration allowed the previous evictions moratorium to expire on Saturday night — putting millions of people at risk of homelessness.