Guest essay by Eric Worrall
University of Queensland Literature PhD student Jamie Freestone thinks the way to convince Conservatives to support climate action is to make climate action sound Conservative.
To get conservative climate contrarians to really listen, try speaking their language
May 15, 2018 2.06pm AEST
PhD student in literature, The University of Queensland
Climate change holdouts are not necessarily ill-informed. But they naturally – like everyone else – do not welcome information that conflicts with their worldview. Conservatives are likely to disregard or filter out information that threatens economic growth, standards of living, and business interests.
They’re also likely to be unmoved by messages that emphasise the impact of climate change on the world’s poor. Especially ineffective are morally tinged narratives about how climate change is humanity’s fault and that we’re getting our comeuppance.
The first suggestion is that carbon dioxide emissions could be explained as a disruption to the status quo (of the climate), and thus at odds with conservative values. Climate change is a radical, anarchic experiment with the world’s atmosphere and vital systems.
Conservatives are more likely to respond to positive messages that emphasise agency rather than doom and gloom. Promoting geoengineering or market-based solutions like a carbon tax is a good idea. Even if your own political identity is opposed to these specific solutions, it’s at least worth using them to win conservatives round to the idea that climate change is real.
Third, climate change can be framed as a matter of impurity rather than harm. Harm to marginalised people and the environment is how many liberal-minded people conceive of climate change. But conservatives think more in terms of purity or sanctity. No worries. The effects of climate change can be no less accurately framed as being a violation of the purity or sanctity of the planet. Instead of harm to ecosystems, it’s a contamination of God’s green Earth.
Finally, we come to a difficult but potentially powerful narrative. It involves turning big industries in general against parts of the energy industry in particular. The more severe effects of climate change threaten the interests of everyone, including those of most large corporations.
I can’t help thinking Jamie has missed the target, but what do you guys think? Would messages about the benefits of carbon taxes and “climate impurity” move you to support more climate action?