A Resource for Talking About Climate Crisis

Recently, I was trying to recruit people to a climate crisis action and in doing so, I went outside the Retake Our Democracy crowd. I was surprised to hear these kinds of reactions:  “I don’t really involve myself in politics.”  Or “I can’t stand politics, it is so nasty.”  Or, “You just don’t know who to believe.” I realized that I was so accustomed to speaking with people with whom I agree, that I didn’t really have the rhetoric at my finger tips that might crack these defenses. I also realized that one tool would not fit all, that there are a wide variety of forms of client denial.

Science Friday points to three steps to use when talking about the climate crisis.  Their first step is to not focus on polar bears and melting ice but to focus on human impact.  From Science Friday.

“I will talk about wildfires in Tennessee that are affecting Americans’ lives this winter. I will talk about the drought in California, which is the worst in 1,200 years. I’ll talk about the changes to habitat for hunters, fishermen, and farmers. These people’s lives are being affected by climate change. And when you can bring the impacts to their lives, it’s a much more compelling case to be made.”

Their second step is to focus on the economic benefits of a transition to renewables, i.e. it is not going to break the bank. From Science Friday.  Note that their information is two and a half years old. Renewables are now cheaper than coal, nuclear and natural gas. Same argument, but stronger.

“The fact of the matter is, solar and wind production costs have dropped incredibly over the past three decades,” said Abraham. “And they’re still dropping. And they’re now almost on par with coal.

“So if we can have energy that is clean at the same price as the dirty energy, well, it’s just a no-brainer: Throw the climate change and the polar bears out the window. You just make the decision based on economics.”

Third step was to appeal to universal values.  Here is an opportunity to offer a personal story or connect with truths with which most anyone can identify.

From Science Friday:

“My argument that I used with my family was spinning the morals that they put on me as a child against them,” said Amber, who called in during the show. She told them: “You always told me to take care of stuff and to leave something better than what I was presented with. So if I’m presented with the earth, then I need to leave it better than as you gave it to me. And it’s my earth, so I need to take care of it.

“And if you want to throw in religion, you could also say because God created Earth. So when I presented it that way, all of a sudden, there wasn’t much of an argument.

“We take care of our earth. End of discussion.”

These are simple rules for a very generic conversation, perhaps at Thanksgiving. But I wanted to find guidance for the myriad of types of conversations that could come up.  So, I took to hunting for some advice on communicating with climate deniers or climate ignorers, essentially the same thing.  I came across the following list of links from the Plainspoken Scientist:

So, what do we do? How to we talk to our friends, neighbors, and family members who have different (and incorrect) views about science, specifically climate change? Well, depending on your cup of tea, we have references!

It’s really important to frame your message (climate-change related or not) depending on your audience. We’ve compiled some resources to help you:

A Guide to Reframing Climate Change to Reach Conservatives or Climate Change Deniers

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Climate change deniers shut off their ears at the first mention of climate change. You might as well just say “scientists have proven that climate change is man made by blah blah blah” as continue citing facts and research. Deniers don’t hear anything you want to say. But I’m A Tea Party Conservative But Here is How to Win Over Republicans on Renewable Energy, is a remarkable short article that includes an even more remarkable embedded video produced by Debbie Dooley, a Tea Party environmentalist. And no, I did not make that up, a Tea Party environmentalist and it is worth our while to listen to her.

This is critical information for all renewable energy activists who need to move beyond preaching to the choir and find a way to engage the support of Republicans. And if saving the planet won’t do it, maybe it is possible to convince them of the economic logic of investing in renewables. It worked in Kentucky. Click here for an article about how Kentucky is now investing heavily in creating solar farms.  And click here for this invaluable article and video on reframing climate change to reach Republicans. The language Dooley uses in the video is language we need to begin to use in our daily efforts to convince Republicans that investing in renewable energy makes economic sense.  If they can make money on it, they may just be willing to help us save the planet.

We’ve been compiling a list of climate-change related studies that showcase success in shifting attitudes around climate change. From health to nostalgia to beer, we hope that you’ll find a topic that will aide you in your discussions. Good luck!

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