Global warming and climate change, two terms that are treated synonymously in most media coverage and casual debate, have been shown to spark different reactions from the American public.
When using global warming, responders to a Cornell University survey reacted with a more politically-charged, personally opinionated response. The study alluded that more Americans believe in climate change versus global warming due to a perceived nature of scientific credibility.
Jonathon Schuldt, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, was inspired to study the way people viewed and reacted to the different terminology by watching everyday media coverage.
"Global warming and climate change, which technically refer to different phenomena, are used as if they are the same thing," he said.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth's surface.
Yet each term, when presented in identical delivery, drew vastly different responses.
When responding to questions of global warming, people presented their own opinions and firmly stood by them. Rotate the conversation with questions of climate change, and responders were more likely to alter their opinion and entertain other possibilities.
Two thousand adults were surveyed for the 2012 study, which replicated similar results to a previous 2009 study. Schuldt believes the results stand true today. His work was published in the March 2015 ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
His research found that global warming brought rising temperatures to the forefront of responder's minds.
"Think about how cold of a winter we had here. If look outside your window at a cold winter, you're more likely to be skeptical," he said.
No matter the terminology used, all related issues continue to be a controversial topic that causes strife in every ranking of American conversation.
Reports surfaced in March that Florida Gov. Rick Scott banned government officials, including workers at Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, from using the words climate change, global warming and sustainability.
"DEP does not have a policy on this," the department's press secretary, Tiffany Cowie, wrote in an email to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, who organically uncovered documentation of such bans.
Gov. Scott has long denied that climate change is influenced by human activity.
Schuldt said there can be long-term effects on the general public when such terms are banned within the very institution that policy changes can be made.
"...It kind of signals to the public that those things don't really matter," he said.
As for everyday conversation, Schuldt said climate change and global warming can be used strategically.
"Data suggests that people might but heads over global warming," he said.
Climate change is more likely to invite people to the table, he said, and may be a more efficient way to build a consensus within the conversation.