Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Katharine Hayhoe seems to think it is pointless to argue the science, because scientifically literate skeptics “can muster evidence to explain why they’re right, too.”.
Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate Change
By Katie O’Reilly
When it comes to climate change denialism, Hayhoe tends to defer to social scientists. “They’ve found that more education doesn’t change people’s perceptions—that in fact, the people with the highest degree of science literacy aren’t the ones who are most concerned, but rather, the most polarized. Because those people can muster evidence to explain why they’re right, too.”
Hayhoe vehemently advises against engaging with the “smokescreens” skeptics tend to offer as the reasons they couldn’t possibly agree with or act on the issue of climate change. “There’ll be no progress that way,” she insists. “It’s a lot easier for people to say, ‘I have a problem with the science’ than it is to talk about what the real problem is.”
But of course, some of America’s most enduring values are prosperity and security—and climate action fits squarely into both of those. I think one of the greatest disservices ever done was framing climate change as an environmental issue. Because it’s an economic issue, a public health issue, a national security issue, a humanitarian issue. It’s an issue of whatever it is that any given person already cares about. So rather than feeling like we have to instill new values into people—and if you come at it that way, people sense subliminal judgment, that you’re saying they don’t have the right values and you do—you need to enter the conversation as if the person you’re speaking with has exactly the right values they need to care about climate change; that in fact, they’re the perfect person to care and act.
What about when you get stuck? Say you’ve landed on shared values—you and a climate denier agree the weather has been wild, but they just insist, “Oh, it’s just part of the natural cycle.” What then?
Here’s where you pivot and move on, beyond what they disagree on, to something you both agree on. You might offer one phrase of dissent—perhaps, “According to natural cycles we should be cooling down right now, not warming.” But then, before the conversation becomes a game of whack-a-mole, change the subject. Try, “Did you know that China and India have more solar energy than any other countries in the world? I’m a little worried the U.S. is falling behind; aren’t you worried, too?” At this point you’ve moved the conversation beyond what they don’t agree on. Because whether it’s a natural cycle or not, a lot of people are worried about losing the fight in the nuclear energy field. You want to acknowledge what people have to say but not to engage.
I personally found Katharine’s interview interesting, because it shed light on a reason why leftists and climate advocates seem to hate President Trump with such venom.
Katharine’s persuasion technique in my opinion seems to rely on making people feel bad about themselves, by playing on their personal insecurities.
President Trump doesn’t play on people’s fear, he engages people’s hope. People who believe in themselves, who believe they have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, have the confidence to make up their own minds, rather than simply accepting what they are told. They are harder to manipulate.