This is not an exhaustive paper on climate change but rather an interesting way, based on research, to talk to those on the fence or those who don’t see the wisdom in responding to this as a crisis.
From “How to convince your friends to believe in climate change. It’s not as hard as you think.” Washington Post, By Brian Palmer February 3, 2014. Based on the work of Stephan Lewandowsky, who studies this issue at the University of Bristol, these four arguments have been shown to appeal to the sort of person who rejects the idea of climate change.
- First, frame it as a risk-management issue. We aren’t really believers or deniers on climate change; our opinions exist on a spectrum. Maybe you’re 90 percent sure climate change is real, while your neighbor sets the probability at just 20 percent. A disagreement over numbers is easier to discuss than a fundamentally different set of worldviews. Even if there’s only a 20 percent chance of rising sea levels, intensifying storm systems and crop failure, we ought to take steps to mitigate the risk. After all, your house probably won’t burn down or flood, but you still have homeowners insurance.
- Next, talk about nuclear power. “People who are suspicious of hippies and Al Gore accept nuclear as a possible solution,” Lewandowsky says. Even if you’re personally opposed to nuclear power, this is a handy way to open climate-change rejectionists to the idea of managing the risks. From there, you can expand the discussion into other business opportunities that would arise from managing climate change, like hydrogen-powered cars or possibly solar arrays.
- Illness terrifies all people, so it sometimes helps to emphasize the links between climate change and disease. “Mosquitoes now live at higher altitudes and spread farther from the tropics than they used to,” Lewandowsky says, “and diseases like malaria and dengue are migrating from the equator.” Nobody likes malaria, even if they’re not so bothered about the extinction of polar bears.
- If all else fails, bring up the Pentagon. People who reject climate-change science often find the views of the Department of Defense persuasive, and the Pentagon is extremely concerned about climate change. “Large areas of the world will be submerged,” Lewandowsky explains, “and residents of Bangladesh and Pacific island nations won’t drown silently: They will migrate. Refugees sow the seeds for conflict.” The Pentagon is already considering the need to shift resources from traditional combat to humanitarian operations to address these scenarios.
Finally, don’t get your hopes up. All you can do is plant a seed.