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How (not) to talk about Climate Change

Posted on 5 November 2018 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Climate Adam

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Comments 1 to 8:

  1. Yes ok good, sound advice, but some real gaps of understanding as well. So the question is why is it hard to discuss climate change? One of the biggest impediments is it has become politicised and a sign of tribal identification, and  theres an old saying "you dont discuss politics and religion in polite company". Things can get very bitter. Sport is safer ground so people avoid discussing the climate issue.

    Climate change science is identified with the liberal tribe (ridiculous though this is)  and the conservative tribe has adopted a negative view of climate change as a weapon of political combat and a core tenet.

    However I think it has to be discussed anyway and de politicised somehow. I think rather than preach, ask people what they think of the climate change issue and keep discussion light and humorous. Don't get angry if people raise badly informed arguments. Keep it intelligent, free and easy like a student discussion between equals. Of course it all depends on the nature of the group and the context.

    This article is good: How the science of persuasion could change the politics of climate change. It gets into how the issue has become politically tribal, and some potential solutions to this.

    Personally I think theres also potential in focussing more on solutions to the climate problem and their advantages in addition to the science. This helps depoliticise the issue to some degree.

    Facts are obviously important in convincing people, but facts alone are insufficient. We know this. We know some people simply don't connect with facts and data or dismiss them as lies or politically tainted. Facts can also be a bit dry for some people.

    You need to put discussion in a human interest setting and a personal setting and connect with emotions. This is basic communications skills. Emotions and human interest can be convincing, just look how politicians use them in argument. The thing is emotional argument can be over done so some care is needed. Avoid the manipulative, preachy and guilt inducing rhetoric.

    Its "horses for courses". Its not "either or". Personally I connect better with facts and data but not everyone is like that. I feel good discussion and books on climate change would probably benefit from a mix of facts, graphs,  emotion, personal stories and human interest perspectives. But this mix is rare in  my experience.

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  2. Something related: "Apocalyptic Climate Reporting Completely Misses the Point. Recent news commentary ignored the UN climate report’s cautiously optimistic findings."

    The point the article makes is too much doom and gloom might be counter productive causing people to switch off. Not enough media attention is given to the considerable successes of renewable electricity generation for example and other opportunites to improve things.

    However I think its important to still look at the climate problem and how serious it could be. Its probably a tricky balance of getting the message home that this climate thing is big,  and with a very clear way out of the problem given equal media attention. You have to give people hope and a plan. 

    However worst case scenarios need an evidential basis. Like hothouse earth has a good evidential basis. When scientists make excessive, highly speculative apocalyptic claims I dont think that helps.

    I think one of the biggest sticking points is people probably just can't get their head around how a degree or two is all that much of a problem. But the simple fact is a couple of degrees is capable of a climate shift of considerable proportions, more than that and the shift could be frightening. Everything changes, weather patterns the whole lot. Look at how the jet stream is already changing. This is a powerful influence on weather systems. I digress. Apologies.

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  3. I'm curious how would one apply this method to counter the malicious science by slander and retortic that Dr. Richard Lindzen has been peddling with such success for decades now (though his general thesis hasn't changed one iota)?

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  4. citizenschallenge, nothing will change lindzens mind, he is a full time professional scientific crank. 10% of people still think tobacco is harmless. All we can do is try to convince normal people who might have some normal healthy scepticism.

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  5. I'm sorry, but I could only manage half that infantile video: it's heave-inducingly awful, and does a great disservice to those who accept the problem is real. I was expecting an adult discussion, not second form banter.

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  6. I don't agree, Wol. Adult discussions are one approach, but they don't seem to be working, do they. Your better ideas are always welcome as well of course.

    I've posted to Facebook and we'll (or rather I'll!) see if anyone responds.

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  7. As this is your first post, Skeptical Science respectfully reminds you to please follow our comments policy. Thank You!

    WAS at 12.14 8 November 2018

    The problem with trying to persuade the right in politics about AGW is that they subscribe to a free market model as a fundamental truth and the free market is suposed to be self correcting.  If AGW is correct then their model is manifestly mistaken.  To accept AGW would mean they have to abandon a lifetimes philosophy.  No wonder they are in denial.  I fear that only the flooding of New York and London will change minds.  Still we must keep trying and facts calmly stated and avoiding emotion and name calling are most likely over time to have an effect.

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  8. Markets don't always self correct, obvious examples being environmental problems, the Great Crash of the 1930's, the 2008 financial crash but there are thousands more. The evidence is so obvious even a complete dolt should be able to see it. 

    The answer is equally obvious: You need laws relating to the environment, human health and safety, some basic labour protections, and the finance sector. In most other ways markets do self correct adequately.

    Reality is complex. Simplistic economic theories are mostly doomed from the start.

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