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"Will animals escape?" vs. "The need for species adaptation" – It’s all in the way you say it.

Keith Bowers
President, Biohabitats

Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)

Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)

Interesting stories were reported both by NPR and the New York Times this week. NPR’s Morning Edition reported a story on the promises that President Obama made during his candidacy and whether he has followed through with them. One promise was to help species adapt to climate change. Host Steve Inskeep, clearly a widely educated man, misses the primary message of the impacts that climate change, as he ridicules the notion that animals will need to “adapt.”

The NY Times published a story this Sunday on climate change and species adaptation called, ” For Many Species, No Escape as Temperature Rises”.

What is striking here is not that President Obama, NPR and the New York Times are talking about species needing to adapt to climate change (although it would be if it were FOX, Limbaugh and O’Reilly). What is striking is the different language being used. The Times article hardly mentions the word ‘adaptation.’ Instead, it talks about species needing to ‘escape’ as temperatures steadily increase over the next 20-50 years.

This is a great little lesson in how to communicate science insider speak to the public. While both Obama and the Times are saying the same thing, it appears that term ‘species adaptation’ does not resonate with the American public, or even NPR.

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