Comparing the effects of climate change labelling on reactions of the Taiwanese public

Nat Commun. 2020 Nov 27;11(1):6052. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19979-0.


Scientists and the media are increasingly using the terms 'climate emergency' or 'climate crisis' to urge timely responses from the public and private sectors to combat the irreversible consequences of climate change. However, whether the latest trend in climate change labelling can result in stronger climate change risk perceptions in the public is unclear. Here we used survey data collected from 1,892 individuals across Taiwan in 2019 to compare the public's reaction to a series of questions regarding climate change beliefs, communication, and behavioural intentions under two labels: 'climate change' and 'climate crisis.' The respondents had very similar responses to the questions using the two labels. However, we observed labelling effects for specific subgroups, with some questions using the climate crisis label actually leading to backlash effects compared with the response when using the climate change label. Our results suggest that even though the two labels provoke similar reactions from the general public, on a subgroup level, some backlash effects may become apparent. For this reason, the label 'climate crisis' should be strategically chosen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't