Archive for the ‘Luntz’ Category

Climate spin: Who changed "global warming" to "climate change"?

April 8th, 2008 No comments

Answer:  It wasn’t the enviros who changed the use of this term, but rather high-powered corporate lobbying interests and their allies in Bush government and the Republican party, spearheaded by leading Republican pollster/ spinmeister Frank Luntz, who in 2002 pushed Republicans to move the public discussion away from “global warming” to “climate change”.

Luntz wrote that :

“’Climate change’ is less frightening than ‘global warming.’ … While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge”

This seems to be a surprising bit of news to more than a few, who seem to forget not only the constant efforts of various statist corporate interests to win advantageous policies from politicians and regulators, but the active interest of Republicans in selling favorable policies that has led to such corruption in this Administration and among Republican Congrescritters.  Yes, the same folks who brought us fear of “Islamofascists” also deliberately brought us fear of gay marriage, fear of abortion, fear of immigrants and fear of enviros, the better to divide and hoodwink us while giving valuable favors away to friends willing to grease the wheels.

Hmm.  And what else did Luntz set up in the way of political strategy for Republicans and fossil fuel interests?

In his memorandum on environmental issues, Luntz provided the following “communication recommendations” in a section devoted specifically to “Winning the Global Warming Debate”:


The scientific debate remains open.  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, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”


The most important principle in any discussion of global warming is your commitment to sound science.”


The scientific debate is closing (against us) but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.


You need to be even more active in recruiting experts who are sympathetic to your view, and much more active in making them part of your message … [because] People are willing to trust scientists, engineers, and other leading research professionals, and less willing to trust politicians.”


(emphasis added)


Luntz offered these specific language suggestions – which the careful reader would see are full of canards and misleading statements:

We must not rush to judgment before all the facts are in. We need to ask more questions. We deserve more answers. And until we learn more, we should not commit America to any international document that handcuffs us either now or into the future.

Scientists can extrapolate all kinds of things from today’s data, but that doesn’t tell us anything about tomorrow’s world. You can’t look back a million years and say that proves that we’re heating the globe now hotter than its ever been. After all, just 20 years ago scientists were worried about a new Ice Age.

Luntz has now changed his mind, as he noted in an interview last year – even though he is actively peddling to Canadians his spin program, which still runs on at home among Republicans and their pet rent-seekers: 

TONY JONES: It will be an interesting experiment anyway. Frank Luntz, let me come to another issue that may well be a defining issue in the 2008 US Presidential campaign and the elections, the congressional elections there, but also certainly will be in the Australian elections. That is the whole issue surrounding global warming. Have you crossed a sort of scientific rubicon here yourself?

FRANK LUNTZ: I have, and as have most people. When I started doing work on this issue about a decade ago, a majority, a clear majority of Americans, in fact all over the globe, did not buy the science at that point. But over the last 10 years the science has been much clearer. The results have been much more comprehensive and I, like millions of Americans, have changed my point of view and you will see across the globe that people now have come to accept that there is an issue here.

How convenient that neither then, when Luntz knew that the scientific window was closing, nor now, when he has finally accepted the science, that his personal views haven’t gotten in the way of him making money by selling slick, convenient “truths” to those who profit by distracting voters with them.

Looks like Luntz has done a good sales job on himself, as well.

The discerning reader might note that all Luntz did was to repackage the devices that the tobacco industry deployed in the 60s, 70s and 80s:  viz., the game of “no consensus”, “scientific uncertainty”, and the “need for more facts”.  Not surprisingly, many of precisely the same people who helped the tobacco industry have been very busy helping fossil fuel interests – and their political enablers.


— “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman
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