George Marshall — how to talk to a climate change ‘denier’
Talking Climate’s George Marshall recorded a video that asks what the best way of talking to a climate ‘denier’ is, including advice on language, framing, and a discussion of whether ‘denier’ is even the right way of thinking about the problem.
You can watch the video here – and please let us know what you think:
Many of the ideas that George discusses are covered by different Guides or featured Resources on Talking Climate.
For example, George talks about the critical influence of family and friends in determining people’s attitudes about climate change. Read more about the impact and importance of social norms and social networks on pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours here.
George emphasises that argument, conflict, and disrespectful language will make it more difficult to achieve the goals you are aiming for – that is, to encourage somebody who is sceptical about climate change to engage with the problem and possible solutions to it. Finding ‘common ground’ and being able to understand why people are sceptical about climate change in the first place is critical. It isn’t all that much to do with a lack of understanding of ‘the science’, but has a lot to do with the ‘personal journey’ that people go through when forming their beliefs about climate change and whether to engage in sustainable behaviour.
Something that is a central part of George’s argument is that people’s ‘worldviews‘ – their social beliefs and cultural expectations – shape the way they feel about climate change. People who are sceptical about climate change tend to hold certain clusters of values and political beliefs. Understanding this is essential for effective communication about climate change.
As well as understanding that certain clusters of values tend to be associated with climate change scepticism, it is important to be aware that different ways of ‘framing’ the problem – as primarily an environmental or a human concern, for example – will also have a big impact.
Finally, George talks about the importance of showing that there are psychological ‘rewards’ in beginning to take action on climate change, whereby the process of taking initial steps towards more sustainable behaviours generates a kind of momentum for further attitude and behavioural change. However, this is only likely to be effective if people are changing their behaviours for ‘intrinsic’ reasons (that is, the change in behaviour is rewarding in itself, not because they receive some financial reward etc). This summary of emerging research shows how developing a sense of environmental ‘identity’ or ‘citizenship’ is a much more powerful way of engaging people in the medium-to-long term, and provides more detail to accompany George’s points on catalysing behavioural and attitude change.
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