How to talk to a climate denier!

Ever meet someone who despite all the facts you give them, keep on saying you are wrong? When you present literature that 97% of the scientific community stand by and they just flat out ignore you or call you a liar? Whether the current global climate change was caused by the actions of humans should no longer be a topic of debate. The fact is clear: Humans are responsible for the climate change!

But climate deniers exist everywhere, heck the new president of the United States, Donald Trump has gone out and said that climate change is a chinese hoax which is designed to destroy American manufacturing. The first day I was here I actually listened to a an member of the American Energy Department and he talked about the new government’s viewpoint on coal and it’s attached industry. Pretty much you can sum it up with that Trump loves the coal miners and want them to keep their jobs. He made it a big part of his campaign and he is gonna keep it no matter what and he twists the statistics in order to prove his point (everyone can do this btw, always double check!) and push for an completely domesticated energy industry in the US. And they can not do it without coal and fracking. That is the reality that Trump and his minions has, and we can not talk to this people, if we do not understand their world view. Note that I say understand, NOT agree with. That is step 1.

Step 2 is understanding a little bit of psychology. Basically it exists two explanations to climate deniers. White conservative men are overrepresented among the climate deniers and the first explanation that they are holding their head deep down in the tar sand and are subconsciously impelled to defend and reaffirm the status quo. The reason why is that conservative white men have benefited by the current socio-economic structure, they are therefore more likely than women or men of other backgrounds to be predisposed to preserving it.

The second explanation is called the “identity protective cognition” theory, which, according to a study led by Dan M. Kahan at Yale Law School, is when individuals selectively accept or dismiss risks in order to preserve a socio-economic structure beneficial to them. In other words, white men are not inclined to accept as real certain dangers—such as the hazardous impacts of continued carbon emissions—when they challenge their preferred way of life—in this case, one built on a fossil fuel economy.

Kirtsi Jylha, from Sweden’s Uppsala University, published a doctoral thesis that used data from surveys done in Sweden and Brazil to identify correlations between certain personality types and climate change denial. She also found that climate change deniers are more likely to be men (as I said, always double check!). They also (this is just not men btw) tend not to like to think about negative emotions, they do not have as much empathy as others, they live in developed countries and have a comfy lifestyle and are not bothered by climate change as it not affects them and tend to be have a personality trait that in psychology circles are known as……*dramatic pause* social oriented domination. People with this personality trait tend to see the world as an ongoing competition between social groups, and think it’s normal that some groups are at the bottom and others are at the top. They also think that humans stand above other animals.

Another study, led by Taciano Milfont from the University of Wellington, shows that those who exhibited social dominance orientation supported a new mining operation only when it was expected to generate further profits to high-status groups—and not when profits were equally divided between all.

Step 3: now let’s talk!

So when empathic arguments do not work on someone, no matter if it is other humans, animals or plants, then what shall you do? And when scientific consensus do not work either? Well, the available research shows that the best thing you can do is to show how it can benefit them. In order to appeal to those who deny climate change, discussions should focus on convincing people to take on behaviors that would help protect the environment—without trying to convince them to become environmentalists. A good example is the renewable energy economy. Arguing that innovation in alternate energy sources would lead to the creation of jobs does not necessarily require convincing someone of the harmful impact of climate change.

You can also try to nudge them, but this tend to work better for people not in charge of the development of society.

And if it all fails, you always got John Oliver.

//Vid tangentbordet – Madeleine


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