Climate change is the defining social, economic, and planetary challenge of our generation. Understanding how terms like “climate change,” and “global warming,” are used can help to reveal how language evolves regarding an issue’s urgency. Using Reddit and Web of Science data, we plan to explore how different user groups co-locate the terms “climate change” and “global warming” with other substantive terms that may confer subtly different meanings to those terms. The meaning implied by a target phrase can shift depending on the other words used in conjunction with that phrase. Our goal is to explore differences in the meaning over time and between user communities by examining the words with which those terms are co-located in a corpus of Reddit posts (lay users) and a separate corpus of abstracts from the Web of Science (scientist users). Our primary hypothesis, based on the existing literature, is that “global warming” has been used to convey skepticism and denial, while “climate change” has been used to convey affirmation. We also expect the co-located terms to differ between lay and scientific communities, and change over time. Finally, we expect “climate change” has become more broadly used, whereas “global warming” has declined in use.
Graduate Student Researcher, University of Chicago