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Climate Communication Narratives:  
Leading the way. . . with climate denial shibboleths

This cartoon — which first appeared in The Economist last summer during the debt ceiling crisis — is even more apt today regarding climate change, especially during U.S. presidential primaries, peak season for pandering.

Unfortunately, for many, climate denial has hardened into a conservative shibboleth.  

“A shibboleth is a kind of linguistic password: A way of speaking . . . that is used by one set of people to identify another person as a member, or a non-member, of a particular group.” (from The Story of the Shibboleth).

The term derives from Judges 12:5:6:    

The men of Gilead would ask, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” they then said, “Very well, say Shibboleth.”*   If anyone said “Sibboleth”, but could not pronounce it [correctly], they would then seize him and kill him. . . (New Jerusalem Bible)

Today, most Republican candidates seem to believe that failure to articulate correct climate denial — or at least its weak sister, climate agnosticism — will lead to a similar fate, politically.    The latest example:   Rick Santorum, who prides himself on educating his audiences,  expounded at length on the topic in New Hampshire.


* The term originates from the Hebrew word shibbólet (שִׁבֹּלֶת), which literally means the part of a plant containing grains, such as an ear of corn or a stalk of grain[Wikipedia].

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5 Responses to Climate Communication Narratives:  
Leading the way. . . with climate denial shibboleths

  1. Don McCubbin says:

    Thanks Tom. Shibboleth is a great word and very apt.
    And oh my… Santorum… Long winded, indeed, and off base… He says that there are many factors, so why pick on CO2 (and the contribution of humans)? Well, the theory, models and direct measurement confirm that CO2 from humans is driving the change in our planet’s climate, as noted here:

  2. John says:

    Good blog, Tom.

    Here’s another useful article about the ostrich-like ability of so many in denial of climate change. I’ve added a couple of comments which will probably appear when the moderator gets round to it:



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