The ongoing search for the perfect climate change metaphor


When scientists, environmentalists and marketers talk about climate change, they often do it metaphorically. The atmosphere is a kind of greenhouse. Carbon dioxide is like a heat-trapping blanket. Climate change resembles a house on fire. Metaphors are a crucial part of communicating climate change, said Stephen Flusberg, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York, because “metaphors are central to how we talk and think about a lot of aspects of our world.” Metaphors are supposed to lead to action, and one climate change metaphor that’s gaining traction is the idea of going to war. For example, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, made the comparison a couple of years ago in her proposal for a Green New Deal, in which she called for “a new national, social, industrial and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II.”

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