In this paragraph from a story on climate change ('Crunch time' for climate change, BBC.co.uk, December 12, 2007) – If the world were changed by words, it would have shifted today. One head of state after another took to the podium demanding urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and better protection of the rainforests which help to regulate the climate. They all stressed the need for this meeting to agree an ambitious agenda for the next two years' negotiations over a new deal on climate change – what does "words" mean here?
"Words" here means words, just words, all words and nothing but words, not even any little action to follow up. In the 1964 musical "My Fair Lady", Eliza Doolittle sings: "Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words. I get words all day through, first from him (Higgins), now from you (Freddy). Is that all your blighters (men in general) can do?"
In other words, "words" here means rhetoric.
Rhetoric, the art of speech aimed at persuasion, is what we often get out of the collective mouth of governments. They "talk of stars burning above", they "talk of love lasting through time", they "talk of June" and they "talk of fall". In short, "there isn't one" word Eliza and the populace "haven't heard". But when it comes to action, sadly many governments are found absent.
In the current case of fighting climate change, the United States always "says it is leading on climate change but its climate chief told the BBC that he couldn't see the day when the US would manage even to stop the growth in its emissions, let alone make the huge emissions cuts that scientists are demanding from it by 2015."
The United States is of course the biggest polluter of the Earth of all time. Understandably some US scientists are tired of speaking another word.
Indeed, if the world were changed by words, and my words no less, I'd happily click along till, lo and behold, the United States pulled its troops from Iraq and put pen to paper on the Kyoto Protocol.