nature-lust asked: Hi there, I need some help. My family is a bit on the conservative (denial) side and I don't know how to explain to them what's going with the global climate change. I just basically need help with putting everything in Layman's terms.
Hey nature lust,
Thanks for your msg.
I tend to believe that explaining is listening. I’ll talk a little about my approach below, but tbh if you’re just looking for bullet points to memorize, skip this post and go here.
In my experience, people like to be heard and hate being wrong. So, in my opinion, just take your time and listen to what your people are saying. Paraphrase it, repeat it back to them. Take their opinions seriously. Use empathy and be nice. No name calling. At the end of the day, they’re deniers because they’ve been convinced that climate change is code for government regulation. Their denial generally has nothing to do with the science.
After you’ve gained some trust and you want to deepen those conversations, follow the rules of debating.
Second, like lifting the Hammer of Thor, realize that it’s super hard to change someone’s mind. Most people accept their version of reality on authority. Understand, truly understand, that getting someone to stop watching Fox News is like getting a liberal to stop reading the New York Times - it’s epically impossible.
Sub to this is to realize that most people (e.g., the vast majority) really don’t care about environmental topics. It’s boring. So, approach your conversations with love and empathy, and realize that you’re more likely to fail to persuade or inform.
Third, and most importantly, deniers generally accept that the earth is getting warmer. This may surprise you! It’s getting warmer, they’ll say, because it’s “earth’s natural cycle” or it’s “sun spots/solar flares” or it’s “El Nino,” etc. Something along those lines. Basically, they place the cause on natural occurrences not on humans, and then rant about regulations. So, the real causes - human emitted CO2 and GHGs - are all but utter impossibilities to the denier.
Sure, you’ll hear conspiracy theories - like scientists churn out papers just for the research money. Or that a handful of dissenting scientists are being censored, and therefore the truth is being hidden. Or that tree ring data is a fraud. Or maybe you’ll hear some garbage about hacked emails. Or - my favorite - that the IPCC is run by the UN, which is out for world domination. Etc. People who take these tacks are not worth your time. Skip talking with them about climate and just enjoy their company (it’s more dignifying, trust me).
If you genuinely listen and paraphrase, you’ll find that most of the burden is ultimately placed on the denier. You can keep your set of facts on the back burner, and discuss what they want to discuss.
Instead of blurting out a list of science-bullets, which no one cares about, get them to talk talk talk. A lot.
Ultimately, it’ll come out that the reason they’re denying climate science is because they politically don’t like government regulation. Strangely, they may not even realize this. But, preventing the regulation of carbon emissions is what this whole thing is about. If the denier can safely point to “sun spots,” then they won’t have to support any regulations. Case closed.
What’s really bizarre about all this is why, really think about this, why would a group of people want to protect carbon emitters? All I can do is point you to the Oreskes fabulous book, Merchants of Doubt.
This may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but that’s how I approach deniers - by listening.
Good luck and cheers!
Update: http://nature-lust.tumblr.com/ is not a nice person and sends hate mail.
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- nerdatronzzz said: such solid advice for any discussion, really
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- uv-catastrophe said: And again, woo Oreskes!
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