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Global weirding with Katharine Hayhoe: If I just explain the facts, they'll get it, right?

Posted on 8 August 2017 by Guest Author

Global Weirding is produced by KTTZ Texas Tech Public Media and distributed by PBS Digital Studios. New episodes every other Wednesday at 10 am central. Brought to you in part by: Bob and Linda Herscher, Freese and Nichols, Inc, and the Texas Tech Climate Science Center.

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. Extremely good article, but I think you need both approaches. So try the science, then try other approaches as well if appropriate.

    Start with the science and see if it works, because in my experience some people may react defensively to the science, but they do go away and think about it, and sometimes come around to accepting the science. I know I found this website helpful in explaning some denialist myths. You cannot expect everyone to accept all new science at face value, as it does need some explaining, and we all have a natural sceptical streak to some extent, but rational sceptics do change position. We know this.

    Of course if you get a very political reaction, you may have to try another approach. Some people are hardened deniers, and they often seem to have some sort of vested interest or strong political ideology, or in some cases strong evangelical religious beliefs. I think you have to try to show them benefits of renewable energy and the other things in the article. Somehow we also need to show them climate science is not a threat to their beliefs, and this is easy enough with religious beliefs as Katharine points out. You can also help people who feel their jobs are threatened.

    But what do you do with people who have more of a strong political ideology, and a hardened dislike of environmental regulations, etc? For example libertarians and more extreme small government fiscal conservatives. We are faced with trying to change or modify their world view, which is hard work. Trying to find common ground and develop a personal connection can also be hard going sometimes.

    One thing that may help convince these people is to try to draw a line between where the private sector works very well for many, many things, and where the private sector fails requiring some form of environmental laws or taxes etc. In other words side step ideology, and show that there's solid economic and historical evidence that theres a place for both private sector markets and envionmental laws etc. This is very much my own personal view for what its worth. It probably wont convince them all, but it may convince some.

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  2. Sweden has an interesting approach to resolving difficult policy debates, especially partisan political debates, and ideological clashes. As a society they have decided put the interests of children first. Then they select whatever policy is genuinely going to help the interests of children regardlers of whether the policy leans left or right. You are of course likely going to end up with a broad mix of policies in society as a whole some leaning right, some leaning left.

    With climate issues this idea naturally extends to the interests of future generations.

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  3. whereas having being explained the science may not be sufficient it may nevertheless be necessary because I've heard many say something like "no-one has ever given me any evidence that  .." and that could well be true .. there is a lot about climate change in the media but rarely do you see a simple explanation along the lines of the videos at How Global Warming Works which I used to good effect (I think) in my Toastmasters Club 

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  4. I find it's best to express the science in the simpliest possible terms.

    CO2 aborbs infrared heat energy. We have known this since John Tyndall did experiments in the 1850's and every experiment since has shown the same thing.

    Adding black ink to white paint makes the paint darker. Adding sugar to water makes the water sweeter. Adding stuff that absorbs heat to the air makes the air absorb more heat. When the air absorbs heat, it gets warmer. 

    This is not some very abstract, hard to grasp concept. It is very similar to things that we see every day, that we are familiar with and understand at an intuitive level.

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  5. BBHY @4

    You're assuming that your very simple and neat explanation will persuade the deniers, but the point of Dr Hayhoe's presentation is that it won't.

    So I suggest you conduct an experiment.  Find some deniers and try out your explanation on them.  And please let us know the outcome.

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  6. nigelj @ 1.

    You're absolutely right. The key descriptor here is rational sceptic.  Those are the people who can be persuaded by methodical sciences. Easy-peasy.

    Sometimes though, the really tough nuts to crack, the kind that you described as maybe having a "political reaction" are actually cynics that doubt motives, not sceptics who question methods.

    I've had numerous conversations with individuals who could easily come around to admitting the reality of climate change. But they would still refuse to take any action to help combat it.

    They would seem to be greatly discomforted by a perception that either:

    A) certain interested parties like solar/wind industries, EV car makers, left-wing politicians, etc stood to gain from their contribution and should not be "abetted" (cynical questioning of motives)


    B) they would somehow disadvantage themselves or be out-competed by those who stuck to business-as-usual ( a kind of social dominance thought structure )

    And then beyond the cynics are the straight-up pessimists. They accept the science but simply refuse to think enough can be done about it and to try would be to disadvantage themselves.

    However, I do think polling trends throughout the years show that these subsets of cynics and pessimists are a shrinking minority, at best.

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  7. Tunnely @ 6

    All your points make sense.

    Heres something I read today posted on another website: 

    "The reason people dismiss it (climate change)  as a problem is because from their perspective they cannot see a problem (or the problem is way off in the future or someone else will cop it), therefore why should they, as they see it, take cuts to their quality of life for no perceptible gain to themselves. Human cognition is terrible at visualising seemingly inivisible threats as a problem, and giving the future any significant value compared to the here and now. This last point is a key issue, people want to enjoy the benefits of capitalism now, and any consequences in the future are of much lower value.

    No different to people refusing to give up smoking or excessive drinking, the pleasure they get now outweighs the health consequences (which may or may not happen) in the future. Similar in a way to when drivers pull off dangerous manoevres around cyclists, the driver externalises the risk without consequence, the cyclist takes the consequence if it goes wrong, if an accident does happen the driver will often use any excuse to blame the victim. The climate change and consequences issue is just like that but on a global scale and orders of magnitude more severe."

    My comment: You could add some other reasons why people dismiss the science and / or emissions cuts:

    1) Worries about job security. Surveys of employees of fossil fuel companies show this.

    2) Fear of so called big government.

    3) Climate change is a big issue, more mentally challenging than say the ozone hole thing. Some people are probably overwhelmed by it.

    4) Fear that emissions cuts could be difficult and economically expensive. Fear of the unknown.

    I could go on for pages of reasons. There are as many reasons for climate change scepticism as there are sceptics. 

    However numbers of these subsets of cynics are slowly declining. Its following other debates like tobacco and evolution.

    Pew polls show over 75% of people want more done about climate change in many countries. The trouble is getting the politicians to move, as they are captive to various lobby groups. Perhaps more people should lobby their local politicians directly more, and it would be good if more wealthy philanthropists sympathetic to climate science funded politicians.

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